Album Review: Tony Monaco Trio – Over and Over

If we’re honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that when it comes to jazz, we’re dealing with a remarkably slim sliver of the listening public. As great as it is, jazz is just about the least-popular genre of music today. As Spinal Tap’s manager Ian Faith might have said, it has a ‘selective audience.”

To make matters even more challenging, there exist within the genre a number of subcategories. If one were to somehow to plot them out on a graph, between the dot representing hard bop and the indicator for (god help us) smooth jazz, there would be a subcategory called soul jazz. And it’s the sweet spot, combining the energy and adventurousness of bop with the accessibility of (god help us again) smooth jazz. I prefer to call the latter “forecast on the 8’s” music. Ugh.

But back to my point. Soul jazz draws from gospel and soul, applying structure and tunefulness that hard bop sometimes (for mostly good reasons) does not possess.

The Tony Monaco Trio exists in this sweet spot. Monaco’s latest and 13th album, Over and Over finds him in a familiar place; seated at his Hammond B3 organ. He’s aided in his tasty musical pursuits by guitarist Zakk Jones and Reggie Jackson on drums. No bass, of course: those frequencies are for Monaco’s feet to cover.

This music swings. It’s toe-tapping, tuneful and tight. Monaco makes effective use of the varieties of tone color that exist within the B3’s capabilities. Jones and Jackson are primarily in support roles, but they take their well-earned turns in the spotlight. The melodies twist and turn enough to keep jazzheads interested, but the arrangement are straightforward enough not to scare away those who want to be able to follow.

Of course there are bits of bossa nova (check “My Lil’ Rosie Girl”). And Jackson lays down a superb groove throughout, especially on cuts like “Over and Over (I Want You).” All but one of the album’s seven track run in excess of six minutes (the title track is over nine minutes) but not a note is wasted, and the trio never wears out its welcome. Sure, you could use Over and Over as the low-volume aural backdrop to a classy evening at home, but it offer rewards when one turns the volume knob in a clockwise fashion as well. Recommended.