Tony Monaco – Master Chops T
Master Chops T
(Summit Records – 2002)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
I thought Tony’s last CD Burnin Grooves was good. In fact one of the tracks was our Hot Single last December, but Monaco’s newest effort Really has the burning grooves on it. Monaco plays the B-3 with a rhythm and dexterity (and fast footwork) that I don’t think I’ve heard since Charlie Earland passed away. The CD starts out at full steam with the hard-driving Acid Wash. White dude special is straight out of an old-style juke joint, with some nice sax riffs by Donny McCaslin. Gramps Blues slows it down with Monaco going soulful using his accordion instead of the classic blues harmonica, then he swings it right back into gear with the rollicking Ode to Brother Jack. Tony demonstrates pretty nimble hands to go with his flying feet, and Guitarist Derek DiCenzo shows some pretty good chops here as well.
So may it secretly begin is a good cover of the Metheny tune, showcasing DiCenzo’s deft guitar playing. On Luck be a Lady Monaco slips into his Frank Sinatra persona complete with the sexy vocals. There are two bonus tracks here as well, Pick up the Pieces and Me and Mrs. Jones, On Mrs. Jones, Monaco again dons his lounge singer hat and puts it out with sincerity and charm. Pick up the pieces is my favorite and his treatment of it is fresh and funky, but I am also very partial to the song itself. The thing that stands out is how Monaco runs with the melody on the keys while keeping the bass line intact and funky using the foot pedals… major coordination required and delivered!
This is a great album, and the story is all the more interesting when you find out that Monaco was stricken with neuralgic amyotrophy and at one point in life could barely lift his arms or speak. Tony underwent hugh amounts of physical therapy, musical retraining and plain old practice and determination learning to walk and talk all over again. And as a result he has come back and risen to his current position as one of the premier Hammond masters on earth.