classic

Sketchy Black Dog at Birdland | NYC | 8/26/11

Experience the daring, explosive mix of classic rock and originals; sonic temptations that are both seductive and unpredictable. This piano trio with string quartet plays unique spins of Bowie, Zeppelin, Hendrix, and more. Sketchy Black Dog takes timeless rock songs and originals to places both irreverent and fragile. Sketchy Black Dog is the brainchild of pianist Misha Piatigorsky and drummer Chris Wabich – both internationally recognized musicians.

The virtuosic and super-creative Jazz pianist, Misha Piatigorsky, is no stranger to Jazz audiences, but you’ve never seen – or heard – him quite like this! The Russian born Piatigorsky fled from behind the Cold War-era Iron Curtain and moved with his family to New York. It didn’t take long for this Classical pianist to morph into one of the most innovative Jazz artists on the international scene, taking first place in the Thelonious Monk Composers Competition, and playing everything from Brazilian music to straight-up Jazz with Mark Murphy, Joe Lovano and Jon Faddis. Sketchy Black Dog is his current obsession - cranking out his original arrangements of Classic Rock tunes alongside his own award-winning compositions. Piatigorsky’s fiery performances leave audiences screaming for more.

Chris Wabich has collaborated with the leading authorities in Jazz, World, and Rock music, including the Zappa family, Leonard Cohen, Sting, Nenette Evans (pianist Bill Evans' widow) and Omar Faruk Tekbilek. This three-time Grammy nominated artist is known for his dynamic extremities, clarity, melodicism and power. Wabich’s understanding and cross-pollination of genres is evident in his original voice, sought after by the likes of Ludacris to Stanley Jordan. Aside from being the rudder for Sketchy, Chris frequents as music director/producer for LA based artists and full-scale theater productions. His soundtrack credits include "Malcolm in the Middle", "American Idol", and work with film legend Lalo Shifrin.

Together Piatigorsky and Wabich have toured in Japan, Russia and throughout the USA, taking Sketchy Black Dog to Jazz and Rock clubs, Philharmonic halls, Opera houses, and even won over the crowd in one mistakenly booked lumberjack bar.

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BIRDLAND Jazz Club
315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Ave)
New York, NY 10036
Phone: (212) 581-3080

Introducing Europe '72: Vol. 2

If you've been hoping for a more fiscally or physically manageable taste of the great tour of '72, look no further. Ready for release on September 20 is Europe '72: Vol. 2, a two-CD set featuring 20 newly mixed, never-before-released gems from that epic and historic adventure. As you probably know from all the Europe '72: The Complete Recordings hoopla, engineer Jeffrey Norman spent many months mixing down the 16-track master tapes from every show for the humongo-box, while mastering ace David Glasser put on the final polish and brought the sonics up to HDCD specs. You've probably heard various circulating soundboard tapes from these shows through the years, but trust us, you haven't heard the music sound quite like this before!

Grateful Dead vaultmeister and box producer David Lemieux was tasked with coming up with a two-disc compilation that would work as a worthy successor to the classic original album, a whopping 39 years later. And there was this guiding philosophy: There would be no songs that appeared on the original 3-LP set. Whoa! No "Truckin'"? "Morning Dew"? "China Cat"? Nope! But what's here is magnificent, including a spectacular, nearly hour-long combo of "Dark Star" > "The Other One" from the famous Bickershaw Festival in England (5/7/72); a kickin' version of "Not Fade Away" > "Goin' Down the Road" > "Not Fade Away" from the super-charged first night of the tour in London (4/7); and the always-moving "Sing Me Back Home" from the last night of the tour (5/26). There's also a wonderfully varied selection of other tunes from Copenhagen, Paris, Frankfurt and Luxembourg, including favorites such as "Bertha," "Playing in the Band," "Good Lovin'," "Black-Throated Wind," "Sugaree," "Deal" and many more.

Stanley Mouse who, along with his late partner Alton Kelley, created the memorable "Ice Cream Kid" and "Rainbow Foot" images for the original Europe '72 package, sweetens the deal with soon-to-be classic artwork featuring the return of the Kid! "Trouble comes in many flavors," Mouse cryptically commented recently. "Ice Cream Kid is in hot water. The jury is out. His only defense is love."

Zach Deputy Celebrates Another Day

On his upcoming release Another Day, soul-singer and guitarist Zach Deputy-- with the help of Grammy-winning producer Scott Jacoby-- taps into the spirit of Al Green, Taj Mahal and Stevie Wonder, creating a soulful rhythm and blues album rich with ballads and mid-tempo songs. The record will appeal to fans of contemporary artists like Jack Johnson and Amos Lee, while retaining a classic sound and feel. Full of hope and anticipation of the promise of another day, a new day, it is a pivotal point in the career of a touring musician heretofore known as a master of live looping and a staple in the grass-roots club and festival circuit.

An appropriately titled album, Another Day is truly an album in the classic sense— a collection of songs that come from the same time and place, inspired by the same muse. Reflective and introspective, it provides a glimpse at the soul of an artist and the depth of a songwriter. As a boy, the music of Zach Deputy's Puerto Rican, Cruzan and Irish heritage was cooked up in the South Carolina heat. The Calypso rhythms and folk songs of St. Croix competed with the R&B / soul of pioneers like James Brown and Ray Charles for space on the family stereo. As Zach honed his craft, a unique hybrid of these influences emerged, ultimately creating the signature Zach Deputy sound-- what he calls "Island-infused, Drum 'n' Bass, Gospel-Ninja-Soul" that has made him a hot up-and-coming artist. However, this is the one-man-band sweaty dance party side of the coin. That same gumbo of influences has the humid, sultry, quieter side, too. This is the side of the slow dances... the bodies pressed close together and the quiet voices whispering in each other’s' ears. Another Day is a warm, mellow album, one that is perfect for after hour soirees... and if Zach Deputy is about sunshine,Another Day is about sunsets.

Best described as soulful rhythm and blues, Another Day features 11 original tracks produced with Grammy award winning Scott Jacoby over just 5 days in Mission Sound Recording in Brooklyn, NY. To handle the ever-present Latin, Caribbean and African elements in Zach Deputy's backbeat and place them in the contemporary soul / pop format of the songs, Jacoby tapped Graham Hawthorne (Aretha Franklin, Harry Belafonte, Paul Simon, David Byrne) for the drum kit. Bassist Al Carty came into the studio after having played four church gigs that day. Despite the list of artists he has recorded or toured with (Lou Reed, De La Soul, Carrie Underwood, Gavin DeGraw), the church gigs alone proved that Jacoby was on the mark with this choice for the low end. Zach Deputy is, after all, a soul singer whose music is underpinned by Gospel as much as by any other musical idiom. Equally at home in the Gospel tradition, pianist / organist Will Buthod (Jay-Z, Fat Joe, Alicia Keys, The Harlem Gospel Choir) completed the studio trio that fleshed out Zach's vision for the recording-- a vision made real by Jacoby's pitch perfect choice of accompanists. These four accomplished professionals met for the first time on the first day of recording and worked as if they were old friends with a common purpose.

Another Day will hit the streets on September 27th following four shows in two days at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. The event will kick off a full-scale national tour with dates booked throughout the country. For ticketing and performance information check out www.zachdeputy.com.

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ON TOUR:

8/5/2011              Camp Creek Festival - Oxford, Maine
8/6/2011              Naukabout Festival -  East Falmouth, Cape Cod,  Massachusetts
8/9/2011              Songs at Mirror Lake Music Series - Lake Placid, New York
8/10/2011            The Westcott Theater - Syracuse, New York
8/11/2011            Southpaw - Brooklyn, New York
8/12/2011            Ocean Mist- South Kingstown, Rhode Island
8/13/2011            The Royal Family Affair at Stratton Mountain - West Wardsboro, Vermont
8/13/2011            Club Helsinki - Hudson, New York
8/16/2011            Divan Orange - Montreal, Quebec
8/17/2011            Kirkland Arts Center - Clinton, New York
8/18/2011            Bella Terra Festival at Gardner's Field -  Stephentown, New York
8/19/2011            Trenton Social Courtyard - Trenton, New Jersey
8/20/2011            Camp Barefoot - Bartow, West Virginia
8/21/2011            Great Bay Music Festival- Dover, New Hampshire
8/24/2011            The Otter House- Fredericksburg, Virginia
8/25/2011            The Jewish Mother- Virginia Beach, Virginia
8/26/2011            Outer Banks Brewing Station - Kill Devil Hills; North Carolina
8/27/2011            Blarney Stone's Pub and Music Hall- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
8/29/2011            Big Bamboo Cafe - Hilton Head, South Carolina
9/8/2011              8 x 10 - Baltimore, Maryland
9/9/2011              Appalachian Brewing Company - Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
9/13/2011            Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2) - New York, New York
9/14/2011            Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2) - New York, New York
9/15/2011            The Met Cafe at Hope Artiste Village - Pawtucket, Rhode Island
9/16/2011            Wormtown Music Festival-Camp Kee Wanee - Greenfield, Massachusetts
9/17/2011            Wormtown Music Festival-Camp Kee Wanee - Greenfield,  Massachusetts
9/21/2011            Bayou Bill's - Valdosta, Georgia
9/22/2011            Blackwater Music Festival at Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park - Live Oak, Florida
9/23/2011            Skipper's Smokehouse - Tampa, Florida
9/24/2011            Culture Room - Fort Lauderdale, Florida
9/25/2011            Beachside Tavern - New Smyrna Beach, Florida
9/28/2011            Handlebar - Pensacola, Florida
9/29/2011           New Earth Music Hall - Athens, Georgia
9/30/2011           Matilda's Art Gallery and Music Venue - Alpharetta, Georgia
10/1/2011           The Emerald Lounge - Asheville, North Carolina
10/6/2011           Gnat's Landing - Statesboro, Georgia
10/11/2011         Woodlands Tavern - Columbus, Ohio
10/12/2011         The Castle Theatre - Bloomington, Illinois
10/13/2011         Red Sky Lounge - Mankato, Minnesota
10/14/2011         Cabooze - Minneapolis, Minnesota
10/15/2011         The Aquarium - Fargo, North Dakota
10/18/2011         The Zebra Cocktail Lounge - Bozeman, Montana
10/19/2011         Top Hat Lounge - Missoula, Montana
10/20/2011         Tractor Tavern - Seattle, Washington
10/21/2011         Berbati's Pan -  Portland, Oregon
10/22/2011         Humboldt Brews - Arcata, California
10/25/2011         Lost on Main - Chico, California
10/26/2011         The Mint - Los Angeles, California
10/27/2011         Winstons - San Diego, California
10/28/2011         Marilyn's on K - Sacramento, California
10/29/2011         The Independent - San Francisco, California
10/30/2011         The Underground - Reno, Nevada
12/30/2011         TheBond-Fire Art and Music Festival - Groveland, Florida

Nashville's Coolest Cat Kenny Vaughan to release V - 9/13

Sugar Hill Records is proud to announce the September 13th release of V, the long-awaited solo debut from Nashville’s not-so-secret weapon: Kenny Vaughan. Since first arriving in Music City in the late ‘80s from his home state of Colorado, Vaughan quickly set himself apart as a different breed of guitar-slinger—technically assured and, more importantly, armed with a deeply felt reverence for a wide range of musical traditions encompassing vintage country, classic pop, hard bop, and beyond. The ten tracks that comprise V dip toes in all of these waters, forming a handy crash course in the trademark wit, flash, and unfailing musicality that has kept Kenny Vaughan so in-demand for the past quarter-century.

Starting in 2001, Vaughan has been a member of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives, a multi-faceted outfit capable of delivering anything from rollicking bluegrass to classic honky tonk to simmering gospel soul. Aside from one track featuring Vaughan’s Nashville-based organ trio, the Fabulous Superlatives back him throughout V, which opens with the show-stopping Superlatives rave-up “Country Music Got a Hold On Me” and continues through an eclectic program that touches upon western swing (“Hot Like That”), evocative low-twanging instrumentals (“Minuit Sur La Plage,” “Mysterium”), Rockpile-inflected country-pop (“Things I Do”), and even a bit of gutbucket swamp-funk featuring the Oak Ridge Boys (“Okolona, Tennessee”), before concluding with a righteous gospel shuffle, “Don’t Leave Home Without Jesus.”

Recipient of the 2006 Instrumentalist of the Year award from the Americana Music Association, Vaughan is one of the most prominent guitarists of today’s ongoing roots music renaissance. An early pupil of fellow Coloradoan (and fellow eclectic roots alchemist) Bill Frisell, Vaughan has since performed and recorded with an array acclaimed artists, including Lucinda Williams, Kim Richey, Rodney Crowell, Tim O’Brien, Jim Lauderdale, Elizabeth Cook, Greg Garing, and too many more to list. Equally comfortable on stage or in the studio, Vaughan can be relied upon for hot, twitchy country leads, bittersweet melodic jangle, and everything in between—all dispatched with the utmost taste and subtlety.

And, as V so aptly demonstrates, Kenny Vaughan is no slouch as a frontman, either. His songs and singing are charmingly conversational, with no shortage of memorable hooks and clever verbal volleys. His cohorts in the Fabulous Superlatives (including bossman Marty Stuart on guitar and mandolin) offer honest, road-tightened support that is honest and heartfelt. Sterling confirmation of the potential implied by each sideman gig, session, and walk-on, V may have been a little too long in arriving…but, after all, Kenny’s a busy guy.

Happy 70th Birthday, Robert Hunter!

What a long, strange trip it's been indeed... June 23 marks lyricist, singer-songwriter, and poet Robert Hunter's 70th birthday. A long-time "member" of the band, Hunter first joined up with his old friend Jerry and the gang after penning the fantastical "China Cat Sunflower." He would go on to write countless lyrics for the majority of the band's original songs including the much-beloved "Dark Star," the all-time classic "Friend of the Devil," and of course, "Truckin'."

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Robert Hunter joined the Grateful Dead in the fall of 1967, when he arrived at a rehearsal just in time to write the first verse of the band's classic "Dark Star." Though he'd never play onstage, he became not only a genuine band member but its secret Ace in the hole. Though Bob Weir's words for "The Other One" would endure, most of the band's early verbal efforts would not; it was Hunter's work that would elevate their songs from ditties to rich, complete stories set to song. Hunter had fallen into the Dead's general scene in 1961 when he'd met Garcia in Palo Alto, and he'd played in several of Garcia's early bluegrass bands. But he'd always thought of himself as a writer -- probably a novelist -- and it was only in 1967 that he fulfilled his personal destiny, and enriched the Dead's. He's gone on to write several books of poetry, and is currently at work on a novel.

Robert Hunter turned 70 years old today, June 23rd, 2011.  Happy Birthday, Robert Hunter!

Marty Nelson of the original Manhattan Transfer Returns to Performing

It has been more than thirty years since Marty Nelson has performed live.  He returned to the stage last month at Chico’s House of Jazz in Asbury Park, NJ.  His show “A Tribute to Sinatra, plus . . .?” is true to its name. Marty uses his favorite Sinatra hits as the core of his show, but adds many personal touches.

Marty explains how he started as a teenager with the original Manhattan Transfer (Capitol Records) and then went on to produce for Lifesong Records, and eventually became a New York City freelance studio singer.  He performed and recorded with artists that ranged from Frank Sinatra to The Village People to Leonard Bernstein.  He also sang on more than 1,000 national radio and TV commercials – and this is where the “plus . . .” of his show’s title comes into play. Marty was often asked to do solos on commercials that called for a Sinatra “sound,” and he not only gives the audience tasteful renditions of many classic pop/jazz songs, but he also sings some of his better known commercials.  (The audience really enjoyed hearing these memorable jingles.)

As the show develops, Marty reveals more of his creative side with original arrangements of “Black Magic” (based on the Billy Daniels hit) and a version of Minnie the Moocher that features an extended vocal scat where he takes the audience on an improvisational journey, touching on classic rock hits from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen and more.  He peppers the show with stories about his experiences in the music business and even does an interactive segment with the audience where he brings a person onstage and does an impromptu scat lesson.

His energy is infectious and his intimate soulful ballad renditions draw you in (especially a marvelous version of “Send in the Clowns” where Marty performs it almost entirely with only stand-up Bass accompaniment).

If you are looking for a Sinatra sound-alike lounge review, you won’t get it here.  But if you want an evening of great music with a touch of fun, you’ll really enjoy Marty Nelson’s show.

eTown: Keller Williams and Marc Broussard

eTown kicks off its 2011 season with a live event that is sure to be energetic, memorable and packed with phenomenal singing and musicianship. Nick and Helen welcome Keller Williams back to the show. The unique musician will bring his cohorts The Keels, husband and wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel, who back Keller on his recent all covers album "Thief" as well as the 2006 collaboration "Grass." As the latter title suggests, the Keels add a bluegrass-y twist to Keller's customary one-man-eclectic-band approach. Keller will do his remarkable solo orchestration as well. Marc Broussard, the Louisiana-bred singer and songwriter, is known for his unique ability to channel the multiple spirits of classic R&B and soul into contemporary terms.

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More Info / Buy Tickets

Check out lots more Keller Williams coverage on The Grateful Web:

A BackYard Barbeque with Keller Williams

Keller Williams: thief

Keller Williams | The Egg @ The Heart Theatre

Clutch Announce New Year's Show at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC

Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines, and Jean-Paul Gaster will say goodbye to 2010 the same way they began it 365 days prior, kickin' out the jams on the big stage. Asheville, North Carolina's "The Orange Peel" will be the site of veteran rock band Clutch's traditional American New Year's Eve performance. In recent years the four piece Maryland hard rock act has LOUDLY rang in the New Year with epic performances in such great American cities as Detroit, Washington DC, Baltimore, Atlantic City (Sayerville, NJ), Flint, and Grand Rapids, MI. Tickets are available exclusively to fanclub members beginning today, and will be open to the public this Friday. Next week, Clutch will announce a short December tour which will lead up to this special NYE date, as well as the support package which will accompany the band on the road.

2010 has seen Clutch release a plethora of well received international audio, video and digital product via their new label Weathermaker Music, including notable double disc re-issues of "From Beale Street to Oblivion" and "Robot Hive/Exodus." The expanded double disc edition of "Blast Tyrant" will be released in January 2011, with further details to be announced next week at www.Weathermakermusic.com. Weathermaker will also be issuing forth special vinyl editions of all three re-issues, to be ready for turntables in the Spring.

2010 has also seen Clutch experience an increased amount of exposure (due not only to the formation of Weathermaker Music and the band's massive touring schedule) but also due to higher billing on visible events such as Austin City Limits (Austin, TX), The High Voltage Classic Rock Festival (London, UK) and The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival (Nashville, Manchester, TN). In addition, television appearances such as Comcast Cable's "In Concert - On Demand" and most recently Fox News TV (see below) have given music fans the long awaited visual to match the bands classic sound.

In other Weathermaker Music news, Thanksgiving day (November 25th) will be the live stream debut of the one of a kind (4) hour podcast counting down the Top 20 Clutch songs of all-time! These songs are 100% voted on by the fans during a special Weathermakermusic.com fan-poll which began on October 1st and will close on November 9th. There are currently over 4000 votes to date! If you have not done so already, get your Pure Rock Fury out at www.Weathermakermusic.com!

Clutch Live!

w/ Black Label Society, Children of Bodom, and 2 Cents

11/2 Austin, TX @ Stubbs Waller Creek Amphitheater
11/3 Tulsa, OK @ Brady Center
11/4 Sauget, IL @ Pop’s *
11/5 Grand Rapids, MI @ DeltaPlex
11/6 Chicago, IL @ Congress Theatre
11/7 Detroit, MI @ The Fillmore
11/9 Rochester, NY @ Main Street Armory
11/10 Columbus, OH @ The LC Pavilion
11/11 Jonesboro, AR @ Brickhouse Grill *
11/12 Wichita, KS @ Cotilion
11/13 Kansas City, KS @ Uptown Theater
11/14 Denver, CO @ The Fillmore Auditorium
11/15 Grand Junction, CO @ Mesa Theater *
11/16 Magna, UT @ The Great Salt Air
11/18 Phoenix, AZ @ Dodge Theatre
11/19 Hollywood, CA @ Hollywood Palladium
11/20 San Francisco, CA @ Warfield

New Year's Eve Performance
12/31 Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel w/ The Bakerton Group *

Ronnie Penque: Only Road Home

You know him as bassist for the world famous New Riders of the Purple Sage. When not touring the country with The New Riders, Ronnie has been busy working with his solo project The Ronnie Penque Band. Now Ronnie and his band have released their first debut CD, ONLY ROAD HOME. The tracks of this classic Americana rock album are filled with great song writing, infectious grooves, sweet vocals, harmonies and a good old school feel. ONLY ROAD HOME is a hook-laden record with catchy melodies rocked out by Penque*s band.  This record will leave Classic Rock fans singing the songs for weeks.  The blend of Jam band, Rock, R&B, with a taste of Gospel, Country and a "Little Soul* will appeal to fans from The Grateful Dead, Tom Petty to The Eagles.  Penque’s song  writing has elements of  the greats before him like Bob Dylan and Robert Hunter. His voice brings back memories of Don Henley, Jerry Garcia, or Paul Simon. ONLY ROAD HOME is a fresh sounding old school Classic Rock album set to delight Classic Rock, Pop and Jamband fans alike.

The Ronnie Penque Band will be doing a string of CD release parties and shows in the Northeast

Jan 8th 2011 at 9 PM:  Mexicali Live, 1409 Queen Anne Road Teaneck, NJ 07666 Tickets can be purchased at www.mexicalilive.com

The Ronnie Penque Band is led by singer and bassist, Ronnie Penque. The band includes Ron's brother, Chris Penque on rhythm guitar, Jeff Pearlman on keys and vocals, Katie Pearlman on drums and vocals, and Andy Trister on lead guitar.  CD Available at www.ronniepenque.com

Ronnie's Bio:

Ronnie is best known as the bass player and vocalist of the world famous New Riders of the Purple Sage. When not working with NRPS Ronnie spends time with his solo project RONNIE PENQUE BAND which includes his brother Chris Penque on guitar, Andy Trister on lead guitar, Jeff Pearlman on keys and vocals, and Katie Pearlman on drums and vocals.

Ronnie started his music career as the original bass player in the popular New Jersey Grateful Dead cover band, Ripple. Ripple was formed in 1978. During the Ripple years Penque would also moonlight with other bands like Wig Jam and Splintered Sunlight. After Ripple retired in 2003, Ronnie was asked by keyboardist Melvin Seals of The Jerry Garcia Band to join his band, "Melvin Seals and JGB". Ronnie toured with Melvin and JGB for 3 years as lead singer and bassist. Penque then joined up with Buddy Cage and Johnny Markowski in Stir Fried which led to the reforming of The New Riders of the Purple Sage in 2005.Ronnie and the New Riders play over100 shows per year throughout the United States and Canada.

If the name Penque is familiar, Ron's uncle the late Romeo Penque was one of the most famous woodwind and flute players in the music industry who was best known for his work with Miles Davis. At age 12 Ronnie was taught to play bass by his father Ron Penque Sr., an accomplished session bass player for 20 years, who gave Ronnie his 57 Precision bass (Dads Bass) upon his retirement. Some of Ronnie's musical influences are The Grateful Dead*s Phil Lesh, NRPS bass player Dave Torbert, Donald Duck Dunn, John Entwistle, Paul McCartney and Jack Casady, among others.

Through the years Ron has also played with many other bands and great musicians including Bobby Weir, Mickey Hart, Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan, Melvin Seals, Robert Hunter, Wig Jam, Splintered Sunlight, Jeff Austin, Neon Gods, Stir Fried, John Popper, Jeff Mattson, John Dawson, Tony Trischka, Pete Sears, Buddy Cage,David Nelson, Barry Sless, Keller Wiliams, Donna Jean Godchaux, Jeff Pevar, Tom Constanten, Michael Falzarano, Johnny Markowski, Mark Karen, Jack Casady, GE Smith, Mookie Siegel, Pinetop Perkins and Tex Logan.

Greg Lewis Upcoming NYC Appearances

New York native, keyboardist Greg Lewis, a highly accomplished mainstay on the city’s jazz, blues and funk scenes, who has earned a solid reputation for his versatile work around town in a vast variety of settings, steps out front for the first time on his debut CD Organ Monk. Lewis’ sensitive and soulful keyboard playing has made him a favorite among some of the music’s finest vocalists – including blues queen Sweet Georgia Brown, jazz and soul songstress.

Lezlie Harrison and ex-Brooklyn Funk Essentials singer/songwriter Stephanie McKay  -- and earned him a featured role on saxophonist Sam Newsome’s Groove Project recording 24/7.  Now on Organ Monk the spotlight is finally shined on his enormous talents as the leader of his own allstar trio featuring multitalented guitarist Ron Jackson and drummer extraordinaire Cindy Blackman.

Born into a musical family, Lewis’ introduction to jazz came from hearing Monk records from the collection his late father, pianist David Lewis, who was a dedicated fan of Thelonious.  “It all started there,” the younger Lewis proclaims, also naming unsung master Elmo Hope as a major influence.  Lewis started his own piano studies at the age of eleven and began playing professionally around New York as a teenager.  He credits jazz legend Gil Coggins, who sent him as a sub one night to a gig where there was a Hammond B-3, for setting him on the path to becoming a bona fide organist.  These days Lewis has so devoted himself to mastering the difficult instrument with such fervor that he considers himself to be an “organ monk.”

Working weekly for the past five years at the hip Brooklyn club Night Of The Cookers, with his regular trio featuring Ron Jackson on guitar, Lewis has honed his skills on the B 3 to become one of New York’s first call organists.  It was at the club that he first met drummer Cindy Blackman, who was so impressed with his playing that she sat in with the group and made arrangements to later perform with Lewis.  An unwavering fan of the Tony Williams Lifetime group, featuring Larry Young on organ, Blackman is the perfect complement for Lewis’, who names Young as his primary influence on the instrument (along with, of course, Jimmy Smith as well as Sly Stone).  Lewis cites Young’s landmark interpretation of “Monk’s Dream” from the classic Unity album as a further inspiration for his decision to devote this his first date to the music of Thelonious.

Although albums memorializing Monk’s music have become somewhat commonplace since the iconic pianist/composer’s death, Organ Monk is most likely the very first on which the date is led by an organist.   Lewis’ years of familiarizing himself with both his instrument’s expansive capabilities, as well as Monk’s sizable songbook, have led to this inevitable debut recording that breathes new life into the master’s repertory, while exploiting the Hammond B 3’s vast (and somewhat untapped) potential for creating new sounds.

Despite its classic organ-guitar-drum configuration, Lewis’ trio is far from typical in approach to making modern music. His arrangements of the fourteen Monk titles on the record are consciously contemporary in their originality, respecting the composer’s melodic, harmonic and rhythmic voice, while using the different elements of each piece to propel the group into its own unique nexus, one where the customary divisions between soloist and accompanist are blurred, or even erased.   Beginning with “Trinkle Tinkle”, one of Monk’s more intricate melodic lines, Lewis’ mastery of both the B 3’s dual keyboards and its too often neglected bass pedals is clearly evident, as is his fearless approach to arranging for the trio, with Blackman’s powerful drums doubling the intricate melody with him.

Lewis’ unaccompanied introduction to ”Jackie-ing”, slowing building around the chords of the playful Monk march before inviting drums and guitar to join him is an eloquent lesson in dynamic tension and release.  The trio trips around in space with Lewis’ organ at times reminiscent of Sun Ra before sliding smoothly into the infectious melody of “Criss Cross”, with Blackman’s drums offering a jagged contrast to the velvety tone of the B 3, before the trio settles into an earthy mood and then blasts back into the stratosphere to conclude astrally.  The band’s easy swinging reading of the beautiful “Light Blue”, featuring Jackson’s soulful guitar, is a ringing affirmation of the group’s ability to shine brightly in the classic organ trio tradition, as is their burning up tempo rendition of the not often heard “Played Twice” that features an exciting Lewis-Blackman dialogue.

The date’s other nine Monk pieces each offer a different perspective on the master’s work.  There’s the bouncing rhythm that jumps out of the long tones that set up “Boo Boo’s Birthday” and its fittingly funny quote by Lewis of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, followed the lilting rhythms of the bebop masterpiece “Coming On The Hudson.”  Blackman’s energetic drumming on the fiercely burning “Four In One”, reminiscent of Art Blakey’s work with Monk, incites Lewis and Jackson to some of their best soloing of the date.  Lewis’ playing on “Locomotion” with his tonally expansive keyboard work, intelligent use of space and cleverly complementary bass line is nothing short of masterful.  On “We See” the trio once again swings mightily, with Lewis clearly demonstrating the influence of the great Jimmy Smith on his virtuosic playing.

“Monk’s Mood” is the date’s most beautiful ballad, with Lewis displaying the sensitive lyricism that has made him the favorite accompanist of so many of New York’s finest vocalists.  The trio shows off its intuitive split second timing in an edge of your seat dramatic reading of the marvelous melody of “Think Of One”, before digging down into their shared deep blues roots.  Lewis’ harmonic daring is clearly evident on his audacious arrangement of “Work.”  The final Monk piece of the date, “Introspection”, is a fitting example of the unmitigated joy the trio finds in coming together to make great music.

The date’s concluding coda is a Lewis original, “Kohl’s Here”, a fittingly Monkish melody dedicated to his teenage son that gives listeners a brief glimpse into the keyboardist’s own impressive abilities as a composer.  A talent that is sure to be seen in greater abundance on future releases from this extraordinary artist.

Night Of The Cookers Oct 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th, 2010

10pm-1am | 767 Fulton St, Brooklyn 11217 (Btwn Greene Ave & S Oxford St)

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55 Bar Oct 9th & 23rd

10pm-130am
55 Christopher St.
New York, NY 10001