All About Jazz 2009

The Sisterhood Of Saxophone Players (excerpt)
July 14, 2009

Nancy Wright with the Tony Monaco Trio
Chicken Coup Records

The spiritual explorations of saxophonist John Coltrane on A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965) and beyond were certainly trend setting musical landmarks—with the tendency to grow as boring as one more performance of “Stairway to Heaven” on Classic Rock Radio. It is like nouveau cuisine: fancy, progressive, impressive, but in the end less than fully sating.

What is called for is the full-throated tenor-organ trio in the tradition of bands led by Gene Ammons, Illinois Jacquet, Houston Pearson, Stanley Turrentine and Red Holloway. This is meat and potatoes music guaranteed to stick to your ribs and leave you fat and happy. Welcome Nancy Wright to this rarefied gustatory fold with Moanin’.

Supported by organist Tony Monaco and his Columbus Trio, Wright turns in a tight recital of burners, ballads and all points in between. The opening original, “Jo-Jo,” is a jaunty minor blues that allows a fine feature of guitarist Robert Kraut. Think “Birk’s Works” with a swagger.

The Bobby Timmons title cut is amiably done with Monaco’s tasty B3 spicing up the atmosphere. “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” is given an upbeat, Dexter Gordon treatment as is Gigi Gryce’s “Minority.” The closing original, “Bernie’s Blue,” is a high strut through the alley, walking with the king.

Wright plays a broad toned tenor, somewhere between Gordon and Ben Webster. Her style and approach are not flashy; she is not trying to dethrone Coltrane. She is, however, the best blues player of the three considered here, trying to inject as much funky bop into the festivities as she can, and more than accomplishing her goal.

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