Organ Monk Going Home
Who Knows - 5:45
Evidence - 7:12
San Francisco Holiday - 6:37
Brilliant Corners - 7:55
Gallop’s Gallop - 5:36
Two Timer - 5:31
Brake's Sake - 4:26
Jaclyn’s Eyes - 6:07
Kevin McNeal - guitar
Nasheet Waits - drums
Gregory Lewis - organ
Everybody has literal and figurative homes. There are the physical places where heads are laid at night and then there are the feelings, people, activities, or spaces that provide a feeling of the comfort of home. Gregory Lewis has found a musical home delving into the Hammond organ and the music of the great composer/pianist Thelonious Monk, a practice that has allowed him opportunities to play with extraordinary musicians and visit amazing places, and his new recording Organ Monk Going Home brings all of these aspects to bear.
Growing up in New York in a Black household hailing from the South, Lewis was taught to celebrate the continent where civilization began, along with the society that these dynasties of Africa helped to create. Part of this societal foundation was the music that Lewis grew up hearing in his 1970s household, which included soul and funk music, along with jazz.
Lewis initially discovered Monk’s work through his father’s record collection. The impression made by the master was enough to inspire the young listener to attempt to learn the idiosyncratic music on piano. But it was when Lewis heard organist Larry Young perform a version of “Monk’s Dream” that Lewis knew that he wanted to focus on interpreting Monk’s music on the organ.
The transition of performing Monk’s music on piano to organ was a difficult one. Naturally, Monk had developed his own technique to playing the piano, its subtleties applying to many of his compositions. As there is no sustain on the organ, the extended voicings are different. The voicings provided by the organ breathe differently and can be held longer, becoming a bigger, multilayered sound. Lewis also had to rely on his foot pedals to provide the bass parts.
Years of practice and performance have honed Lewis ‘s skills and developed his material, leading to many opportunities and much recognition. While performing a concert of Monk material at the Brooklyn jazz club, Sista’s Place, Lewis was approached by the official photographer of Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe. A friendship was struck, leading to Lewis being invited to United Nations functions and to visit Zimbabwe, a trip that profoundly affected Lewis when he was eventually able to make it after the Covid pandemic.
This going back to his proverbial home led Lewis to go back to a musical one. For Organ Monk Going Home, Lewis recruited drummer Nasheet Waits and guitarist Kevin McNeal to complete his trio. Waits has been a friend since the two were introduced at the New School; Waits was the drummer on Lewis’s first gig in Queens. The drummer’s pedigree and advice has long been valuable to Lewis. McNeal was tracked down twenty years ago by Lewis and they have maintained a strong musical relationship, most notably in McNeal’s Blueswing ensemble.
Reunited with these friends/collaborators, Lewis took the trio into the Samurai Hotel Recording Studio in March and April 2022 to record an inspired collection of arrangements of Monk’s material, and a Lewis original.