It’s not often that I talk about jazz album cover artwork or photos, because while the artwork can be cool, the photos are often boring. However, the gatefold for Greg Lewis‘ Organ Monk has to be mentioned right off the top. It’s a photo of Lewis sitting on a chair with nothing but blue jeans on while his wife, in the nude, rides him. In front of them, their baby sleeping in a baby rocker. It’s funny, but it’s also honest and open, and as I’m playing the album staring at the photo, it starts to make sense.
Organ Monk could very well be a play in words for Lewis, but it’s also a way to share his love of the Hammond B-3 organ, and this guy tears it up like some of the best have in jazz’s history. “Criss Cross” has him riding the keys and just demolishing the instrument in a freeform manner, but the songs around it having him taking care of business, perhaps as he is doing in the gatefold cover. I’m a huge fan of the sound of the B-3, and when he creates sounds that to me sounds like he’s “digging” (perhaps as he is doing in the gatefold cover), I’m smiling from ear to ear. He plays along with drummer Cindy Blackman and guitarist Ron Jackson, and knowing this gives me a Cheshire grin. It’s great to hear Jackson and Lewis go back and forth, trading licks in “Light Blue” as Blackman helps maintain the sound in the way she does so in a grand (but not grandiose) fashion.
There’s a certain coolness to the B-3 that is immediate once you hear it, but team that up with a brilliant drummer and guitarist and it’s a formula for trouble, in a good way. I go through a lot of jazz albums on a regular basis but when you have one so well executed, it makes me want to hike up a mountain (I’d pass out but I would make it) and yell out “GET THIS ORGAN MONK RIGHT NOW!!!” As you hear these fifteen songs, you then look at that gatefold cover and say “damn, this man has nothing to be ashamed of.” Ride on.