Groove: Blue Tony Monaco (Hammond B3) Vinny Valentino
(guitar) Steve Smith
We owe the existence of this precious jewel
to a chance encounter in Indonesia's capital
Jakarta in March, 2011. Drummer Steve Smith and
guitarist Vinny Valentino decided to go for a
nightcap after playing the Java Jazz Festival
with their band Vital Information.
they approached the lounge bar, they heard the
sound of a wild swinging electric organ.
Wondering “who the hell was swinging that hard
on the B3,” they walked in and saw Tony Monaco,
an “unsung hero” of the instrument. Few people
knew Monaco, though he had been promoted by
organ legend Jimmy Smith and had spent two years
touring with jazz guitarist Pat Martino. Smith
and Valentino made their way through the crowd
and asked if they could join in. They proceeded
to spend the rest of the night jamming together,
later joined by festival greats George Benson
and Roy Hargrove.
Five months later, fate
once again intervened. Smith and Valentino had
been booked for Drum Fantasy Camp, an annual
drum camp in Cleveland Ohio. Tony Monaco lived
close by in Columbus, a modest 230 km drive
away. A spontaneous phone call resulted in a car
journey and resulted in the three of them
playing in Monaco’s small home studio.
Steve borrowed a small jazz drum kit from a
friend of Tony as his own didn’t fit in the car.
Valentino plugged his guitar into the only
available amplifier and they were off. They
worked so well together that they decided to
record an album. One and a half days later, the
recording was in the can!
To get a sense
of the style of this album, think of the classic
Blue Note organ trios of the '60s. These true
musos effortlessly inject a 50-year-old sound
into their own compositions, adding a few
specially arranged jazz standards along the way.
Those standards include the legendary
1958 Miles Davis version of "On Green Dolphin
Street," where Smith’s zestful drumming gives a
distinct Latin feeling. The group also covers
Ray Nobles' "Cherokee," gently modernised with a
funky groove. Nat King Cole’s immortal "It's
Only A Paper Moon," from the Broadway musical
"The Great Magoo," retains a timeless swing but
with a walking pedal bass from the Hammond
organ. The album winds down with a gentle
version of "That's All,"an unforgettable ballad
from the Great American Songbook.
Although Smith, Monaco and Valentino had
virtually no time for rehearsals, they harmonise
on "Groove: Blue" as if they’d known each other
all their lives.