T.K.Blue and "Mostly Monk"
Greg "Organ Monk" Lewis on Hammond B3
Lenny Robinson on drums
T.K.Blue on saxophone and flute
special guest Warren Wolf on vibraphone
Tickets: $20/$15 seniors/$10 students
New York native, keyboardist Greg Lewis, a highly accomplished mainstay on the city's jazz, blues and funk scenes, who has earned a solid reputation for his versatile work around town in a vast variety of settings, steps out front for the first time on his debut CD Organ Monk. Lewis' sensitive and soulful keyboard playing has made him a favorite among some of the music's finest vocalists - including blues queen Sweet Georgia Brown, jazz and soul songstress, Lezlie Harrison and ex-Brooklyn Funk Essentials singer / songwriter Stephanie McKay -- and earned him a featured role on saxophonist Sam Newsome's Groove Project recording 24/7. Now on Organ Monk the spotlight is finally shined on his enormous talents as the leader of his own all-star trio featuring multitalented guitarist Ron Jackson and drummer extraordinaire Cindy Blackman.
Born into a musical family, Lewis' introduction to jazz came from hearing Monk records from the collection his late father, pianist David Lewis, who was a dedicated fan of Thelonious. "It all started there," the younger Lewis proclaims, also naming unsung master Elmo Hope as a major influence. Lewis started his own piano studies at the age of eleven and began playing professionally around New York as a teenager. He credits jazz legend Gil Coggins, who sent him as a sub one night to a gig where there was a Hammond B-3, for setting him on the path to becoming a bona fide organist. These days Lewis has so devoted himself to mastering the difficult instrument with such fervor that he considers himself to be an "organ monk."
Working weekly for the past five years at the hip Brooklyn club Night Of The Cookers, with his regular trio featuring Ron Jackson on guitar, Lewis has honed his skills on the B 3 to become one of New York's first call organists. It was at the club that he first met drummer Cindy Blackman, who was so impressed with his playing that she sat in with the group and made arrangements to later perform with Lewis. An unwavering fan of the Tony Williams Lifetime group, featuring Larry Young on organ, Blackman is the perfect complement for Lewis', who names Young as his primary influence on the instrument (along with, of course, Jimmy Smith as well as Sly Stone). Lewis cites Young's landmark interpretation of "Monk's Dream" from the classic Unity album as a further inspiration for his decision to devote this his first date to the music of Thelonious.
Although albums memorializing Monk's music have become somewhat commonplace since the iconic pianist/composer's death, Organ Monk is most likely the very first on which the date is led by an organist. Lewis' years of familiarizing himself with both his instrument's expansive capabilities, as well as Monk's sizable songbook, have led to this inevitable debut recording that breathes new life into the master's repertory, while exploiting the Hammond B 3's vast (and somewhat untapped) potential for creating new sounds.
Despite its classic organ-guitar-drum configuration, Lewis' trio is far from typical in approach to making modern music. His arrangements of the fourteen Monk titles on the record are consciously contemporary in their originality, respecting the composer's melodic, harmonic and rhythmic voice, while using the different elements of each piece to propel the group into its own unique nexus, one where the customary divisions between soloist and accompanist are blurred, or even erased. Beginning with "Trinkle Tinkle", one of Monk's more intricate melodic lines, Lewis' mastery of both the B 3's dual keyboards and its too often neglected bass pedals is clearly evident, as is his fearless approach to arranging for the trio, with Blackman's powerful drums doubling the intricate melody with him.
Lewis' unaccompanied introduction to "Jackie-ing", slowing building around the chords of the playful Monk march before inviting drums and guitar to join him is an eloquent lesson in dynamic tension and release. The trio trips around in space with Lewis' organ at times reminiscent of Sun Ra before sliding smoothly into the infectious melody of "Criss Cross", with Blackman's drums offering a jagged contrast to the velvety tone of the B 3, before the trio settles into an earthy mood and then blasts back into the stratosphere to conclude astrally. The band's easy swinging reading of the beautiful "Light Blue", featuring Jackson's soulful guitar, is a ringing affirmation of the group's ability to shine brightly in the classic organ trio tradition, as is their burning up tempo rendition of the not often heard "Played Twice" that features an exciting Lewis-Blackman dialogue.
The date's other nine Monk pieces each offer a different perspective on the master's work. There's the bouncing rhythm that jumps out of the long tones that set up "Boo Boo's Birthday" and its fittingly funny quote by Lewis of the nursery rhyme "Mary Had A Little Lamb", followed the lilting rhythms of the bebop masterpiece "Coming On The Hudson." Blackman's energetic drumming on the fiercely burning "Four In One", reminiscent of Art Blakey's work with Monk, incites Lewis and Jackson to some of their best soloing of the date. Lewis' playing on "Locomotion" with his tonally expansive keyboard work, intelligent use of space and cleverly complementary bass line is nothing short of masterful. On "We See" the trio once again swings mightily, with Lewis clearly demonstrating the influence of the great Jimmy Smith on his virtuosic playing.
"Monk's Mood" is the date's most beautiful ballad, with Lewis displaying the sensitive lyricism that has made him the favorite accompanist of so many of New York's finest vocalists. The trio shows off its intuitive split second timing in an edge of your seat dramatic reading of the marvelous melody of "Think Of One", before digging down into their shared deep blues roots. Lewis' harmonic daring is clearly evident on his audacious arrangement of "Work." The final Monk piece of the date, "Introspection", is a fitting example of the unmitigated joy the trio finds in coming together to make great music.
The date's concluding coda is a Lewis original, "Kohl's Here", a fittingly Monkish melody dedicated to his teenage son that gives listeners a brief glimpse into the keyboardist's own impressive abilities as a composer. A talent that is sure to be seen in greater abundance on future releases from this extraordinary artist.
Born October 4, 1956, Lenny Robinson has become one of the foremost voices of the jazz at the drums. He grew up in Baltimore, Md. in a very rich musical environment. He played piano and organ in his father's church in his early teens. He also played trumpet in both junior high and high school. The love of percussion was felt in the ninth grade and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lenny's first contact with jazz came early in junior high school when he heard a jazz recording on the radio and could not figure out how the drummer could do what he was doing. It turned out that the record was a Max Roach/Clifford Brown record and Max was burning it up. This started Lenny on a journey that continues to this day. He started out by going to listen and sit in with the elder statesmen of jazz in Baltimore. He then enrolled in the Peabody Conservatory of Music under the teachings of Charles Memphis, principal percussionist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. After a year at Peabody, Lenny transferred to Morgan State University where Mr. Memphis was also on staff. (It was a lot less expensive there.) While attending Morgan, Lenny's first international gig was with Pamoja Experience, a theatrical jazz group that chronicled the black music experience from slave songs to the present. This group toured Europe and performed in places such as the Montreux festival in Switzerland, the Oslo festival, the North Sea festival as well as theatre appearances in various cities in Europe. Shortly after returning from Europe, Lenny was asked to join Jean Carne's band. This band traveled extensively throughout the US sharing concert billings with groups such as The O'Jays, Roy Ayers, The Gap Band and other R&B groups of the early 80's. It was during this time that Lenny felt the need to expand his musical horizons and make the move to New York. The opportunity would come from a most unlikely source.
Uncle Sam wanted Lenny to be a member of the 26th Army Band in Brooklyn, NY. While it would mean actually joining the Army, it would also mean having Uncle Sam pay for Lenny to live there and get established. After going through basic training and the Armed Forces School of Music, Lenny was now in New York and starting to work. He put together a band that included either Onaje Allan Gumbs or Kenny Kirkland on piano, Anthony Cox on bass and John Purcell on reeds. This band performed regularly at 55 Grand, the musicians hang out at the time. This enabled Lenny to play with and establish relationships with musicians such as Mike Stern, Jaco Pastorious, Marcus Miller, the Brecker Brothers, Anthony Jackson, Jeff Watts and many other world class musicians. When Lenny got out of the Army, he stayed in New York and worked for a while, but when his son was born, he and his wife moved to Washington, D.C. in 1986. Although Lenny's primary residence is in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, he still maintains a residence in New York. As a result of Lenny's abilities and experience, he has been able to perform with a number of recording artists. A partial list would include Dewey Redman, Clifford Jordan, Carter Jefferson, Vanessa Rubin, Lou Donaldson, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Barron, Eartha Kitt, Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson, Ahmad Jamal, Keter Betts, John Hicks, Larry Willis, Don Braden as well as the Bill Cosby show "You Bet Your Life". He was a member of the late Stanley Turrentine's working band and is currently touring and recording with Marlena Shaw as well as the saxophonist T. K. Blue.
Lenny's career has also had an educational side. He was part of the adjunct faculty at Cheyney State University in Cheyney, Pa. as well as an instructor for the Living Jazz summer program there. This program was directed by Terrell Stafford, currently director of jazz studies at Temple University. The faculty also included Tim Warfield, saxophonist w/ Nicolas Peyton and other world reknown artists. Lenny most recently was chosen to lead a group and be involved in the Harman Corp.'s Listening To Jazz educational program. This program, which is a partnership between the Harman Corp. and Wynton Marsalis, is designed to go into urban public schools and teach elementary school children the elements of Jazz and to show how these elements go together to create the art that is improvisation. Lenny is currently on the faculty at the prestigious Landon School in Bethesda, Md.
Lenny is the leader of The Lenny Robinson Group as well as the co-leader of Lenny Robinson and ThreeForAll. He has an organ group called the "Organic Trio", which features Harry Appelman on organ and Marshall Keys on saxophone, and the piano-less quartet "Full Compass" which features Thadd Wilson on trumpet, Brian Settles on saxophone and Gavin Fallow on bass.
He is also producing records for his production company Intrinsic Value Productions. Three For All's CD "Premonition" and Antonio Parker's "The Exchange" were the first two projects from this company dedicated to "producing great music from the inside out". The latest is the new CD "Songs I Like To Play", which features Andrew Adair on piano, Gavin Fallow on bass and has Bob Butta guest on piano for one selection.
Beginning with classical music, Warren had studied classical composers from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Paganini, Brahms, Vivaldi and Shostakovich. Warren also studied ragtime music learning music from the songbooks of Scott Joplin, Harry Brewer and Geroge Hamilton Green. In Jazz, Warren has studied artist and composers from Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Cal Tjader, Return to Forever, Weather Report, Wynton Marsalis and many others.
Warren attended the Peabody Prepatory for eight years studying classical music with former Baltimore Symphony Orchestra member Leo LePage. During his high school years at the Baltimore School for the Arts, Warren studied with current Baltimore Symphony Orchestra member John Locke. After graduating from Baltimore School for the Arts in June of 1997, Warren headed north and enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston,MA.
During his time at Berklee, Warren studied with Carribean Jazz Vibraphonist Dave Samuels for seven of eight semesters.One semester was spent with vibist Ed Saindon. During his time at Berklee, Warren began to explore deeper into jazz. Some musicians who've helped Warren reach his musical goal during his time at Berklee were musicians such as Jeremy Pelt, John Lamkin, Darren Barrett, Wayne Escoffery, Richard Johnson, Kendrick Scott, Walter Smith, Jason Palmer, Rashawn Ross and many others. Through those musicians Warren becamse an active performer around the Boston area, gigging frequently on the Vibraphone, Drums and Piano. One of the highlights of Warren's stay in Boston was co-leading a quintet with Boston-based trumpeter Jason Palmer at the historic jazz club Wallys Cafe. Warren was the house drummer at Wallys for two years, performing every Friday and Saturday.
After graduating from Berklee in May of 2001, Warren became an active musician on the Boston local scene. Warren was hired in September of 2003 to become an instructor in the percussion department at Berklee College of Music. Warren taught private lessons on the Vibraphone and Drums, as well as teach a beginners keyboard class for entering freshman drumset majors.
After two years of teaching at Berklee College of Music, Warren headed back to Baltimore to start his main goal of becoming a full time performing musician. Since leaving Berklee as a teacher, Warren has landed the piano duties performing in the Rachael Price Group. Recording and touring with Rachael, Warren has had the opportunity to tour throughout the entire Unites States of America. Warren is currently the drummer of choice for Alto Saxophonist Tia Fuller, who tours with internationally renowned pop star Beyonce Knowles. Warren is also a member of the Donal Fox Group which includes bassist John Lockwood and drummers Dafnis Preito and Terri Lyne Carrington. Also, Warren tour and perform with Bobby Watson's "Live and Learn" Sextet, Karriem Riggins "Virtuoso Experience" and Christian McBride & "Inside Straight". With these three groups Warren has traveled the world. Warren has performed throughout the United States of America, South America, Canada, Italy, Spain, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Scotland, London, Greece, Singapore, Thailand, Jarkata, Bangkok, Tokyo, Paris, Moscow and many other countries.
Warren has several recordings as a leader. Warren's first two records are on the M&I label which is based in Japan. The first record is titled "Incredible Jazz Vibes" which features Mulgrew Miller on Piano, Vicente Archer on Bass and Kendrick Scott on Drums. The second record is titled "Black Wolf". That record features Mulgrew Miller on Piano, Rodney Whitaker on Bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on Drums. Warren has a self produced CD which is titled "RAW". That record features Darren Barrett on Trumpet, Walter Smith on Tenor Saxophone, Jason Palmer on Trumpet, Plume on Alto Saxophone, Kris Funn on Bass, Peter Slavov on Bass, Lawrence Fields on Piano/Fender Rhodes and Charles "Dogg" Haynes on Drums. On "RAW" Warren performs on both the Vibraphone and Drums. The fourth recording is titled Warren "Chano Pozo" Wolf. On this recording, Warren performs on the Vibraphone,Drums/Fender Rhodes and Piano. This recording features Tim Green on Alto Saxophone, Lawrence Fields on Piano/Fender Rhodes, John Lamkin on Drums, Dana Hawkins on Drums, Kris Funn on Bass, Louis Cato on Electric Bass, Delandria Mills on Flute, Tabreeca Woodside on Vocals and Integriti Reeves on Vocals. Warren has recently signed to the Mack Ave recording label. A future record will be released in the near future.
Musicians that Warren has played with or recorded with are Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Jeremy Pelt and "Creation", Nicholas Payton, Tim Warfield, Adonis Rose, Donal Fox, Anthony Wonsey, Aaron Goldberg, Cyrus Chestnut, Lewis Nash, Willie Jones, Eric Reed, Mulgrew Miller, Terri Lyne Carrington, Yoron Israel, Larry Willis, David "Fathead" Newman, Stefon Harris, Reuben Rogers, Kevin Eubanks, Curtis Lundy, Steve Davis, Duane Eubanks, Ron Carter, Wycliffe Gordon, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spaulding and many others.
T.K. Blue, also known as Talib Kibwe, was born in New York City of a Trinidadian mother and Jamaican father. T.K. began playing music at the age of 8 years old on trumpet. After two years his interest shifted to academic and athletic endeavors... He returned to his musical studies in High School while playing the flute.
He took lessons from Billy Mitchell, the legendary tenor saxophonist with Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie, eventually pursuing music as a career after receiving a full academic scholarship to New York University, where he began playing soprano & alto saxophone. He earned a bachelor's degree in both music and psychology. T.K. Blue went on to earn a master's degree in music education from Teacher's College at Columbia University.
"Coming to Jazzmobile in NYC is what did it for me. I got involved with Jazzmobile, where we studied jazz theory, harmony, sight- reading, rhythmic training, improvisation and big-band performance. It was just like going to school. I studied with Jimmy Heath, Chris Woods, Ernie Wilkins, Frank Foster, Sonny Red and Jimmy Owens. Thad Jones and Billy Taylor would come by from time to time to give their knowledge and support."
T.K. also studied at Jazz Interactions with Rashaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and Joe Newman. He also studied at The Henry Street Settlement with Billy Mitchell and Paul West and at The Muse with world-renowned bassist Reggie Workman.
While living in the East Village of NYC during his undergraduate studies, T.K. took lessons from many elders. An early highlight in his career was when he played with Don Cherry at the famous "5 Spot" jazz club in Greenwich Village. T.K. also studied with Nadi Qamar and learned how to play the African hand piano or kalimba. Jaki Byard hired T.K. to play in a band called The Apollo Stompers.
Abdullah Ibrahim, the great South African pianist formerly known as Dollar Brand hired T.K. " I was able to develop when I was in Abdullah’s band because he didn’t put any restraints on me in soloing. It’s an honor and privilege to be in the company of masters when they let you stretch out." Working in this band offered the opportunity for Kibwe to travel to many nations and deliver performances via many media forms, while absorbing the music and culture of people around the world.
The Paris Years
After traveling with Abdullah Ibrahim’s ensemble from 1977 until 1980, T.K. moved to Paris in 1981 to quench his cultural thirsts. He lived in Paris until 1989 making numerous trips to various regions in Africa.
In 1982, T.K. was asked to join an 11 piece saxophone choir led by Sam Rivers. This group known as the Winds of Manhattan toured Europe and recorded an LP on Black Saint Records in Milan, Italy.. From 1982 until 1985 much time was spent playing with African musicians including the notable Manu Dibango and the Senegalese group Xalam.
In 1985, T.K. went on to develop his first first group T.K. Odyssey and in the following year recorded his first release as leader entitled, Egyptian Oasis. This record sparked a number of State Department tours including a 1989 tour of ten East African countries, a 1990 tour of ten West African countries, and a third State Department tour of Morocco in that same year.
With Randy Weston
T.K. Blue met the great pianist and composer Randy Weston during his stint with Abdullah Ibrahim. He began working with Mr. Weston in 1980. Randy Weston was living in France at that time. After moving to Paris in 1981, T.K. re-established his working relationship with Randy, and has since become his musical director. This union has lasted 30 years and has lead to the fruition of countless tours, recordings, concerts, radio and television appearances.
In 1988, T.K. toured with Chico Hamilton’s band and was a featured soloist alongside Archie Shepp in pianist Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath big band.
By the end of 1989 when he returned to the USA, T.K. had cemented an enduring, essential friendship with the iconic pianist-composer Randy Weston. Weston was to become the most influential person in T.K.’s professional career. During the Weston recording, Spirit Of Our Ancestors, 1991, Verve, T.K. debuted as musical director as well as recording alongside jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Pharaoh Sanders.
Since 1990 T.K. has worked constantly in a wide range of musical setting. He was musical director, arranger and composer with the Spirit of Life Ensemble at the world famous jazz club called Sweet Basil in NYC. He also formed a band with James Weidman called TaJa. They released their debut CD, Live At Birdland in 1993.
In 1996, T.K.’s first stateside debut, Introducing Talib Kibwe was released on the Evidence label. Coupled with his masterful facility on saxophones and flutes, compositional insight and recording experiences, T.K. is among the new breed of artist-educators fully prepared to carry the message of jazz to students of all ages.
In 1998, T.K. began a long term relationship with the New York based Arkadia Jazz label, with a third CD of ballads about to be released featuring Grammy nominated vibraphonist Stefon Harris. Arkadia’s founder Bob Karcy comments; “T.K. is a major talent in both his playing and compositional ideas. I’m impressed by the lyricism in his soloing even when he’s playing at a very high energy. I think he has a unique and very contemporary sound that both comes from the past and looks to the future".
T.K. Blue was a featured soloist, conducter, and arranger for Randy Weston and the BBC Radio Big Band in London, England.
T.K. Blue was also the arranger, conducter, and soloist for a concert performance at City College in New York entitled Harlem Stride--A tribute to James Reese Europe--featuring new compositions by Randy Weston. This tribute will continue on Feb 25,2012 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in NYC. James Reese Europe was the first person to take jazz outside the continental United States during WW1 while stationed in France with the 368th Harlem Hellfighter's Infantry.
T.K. Blue released his 8th CD as a leader entitled "Follow the North Star", which received rave reviews and critical acclaim. He received a commission from the NYSCA and Transart Inc. to compose a piece of music dedicated to the early African-American presence in the Hudson Valley area of upstate New York. T.K. chose to write a suite based on the life of Solomon Northup and his book Twelve Years a Slave. Mr. Blue takes us on a wordless but yet richly satisfying journey through Northup's life, from his ancestry to his return to his family, making all of the painful, harrowing, and joyous stops in between....I found the music to be most compelling when listened to from beginning to end, like a symphonic movement..."--Curtis Davenport, Jazz Improv NYC July 2008.
T.K. is a musician of the highest caliber who is at the peak of his creative output. Mr. Blue’s artistry is found on over seventy recordings and has performed with a long list of great international artists such as Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim, Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp, Randy Weston, Dizzy Gillespie, Pharoah Sanders, Melba Liston, Johnny Copeland, Billy Higgins, Reggie Workman, Chico Hamilton, Stefon Harris, Eric Reed, Regina Carter, Bobby McFerrin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Benny Powell, James Moody, Paquito d’Rivera, and Jimmy Scott, just to name a few. Blue has a Bachelor’s degree in Music and Psychology from NYU as well as a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. After several years as an adjunct professor at Suffolk Community College and Montclair State University, T.K. Blue is now the official fulltime professor and director of jazz studies at Long Island University-LIU-Post.
T.K. Blue was part of an historic photo session in Paris, France called "A Great Day in Paris", which featured close to sixty musicians from the USA who resided there. While residing in Paris Blue made his first recording as a leader entitled “Egyptian Oasis”. This recording sparked several state department tours in eastern, western, and northern Africa. These tours in Africa were extremely spiritual and deep-rooted in a cultural awareness. Blue was very fortunate to experience first-hand many cultures and various styles of traditional African music. T.K. is deeply indebted to various organizations such as Jazzmobile, Jazz-interactions, the Henry Street Settlement, and the Muse, for his jazz studies and performances. Despite his busy schedule, T.K. has found time to teach and mentor budding musicians. He has taught music education and performance on the pre-k level straight up to the university and graduate level. His passion for music and teaching is evident in his personal expression. LIU-Post has provided T.K. Blue with the perfect environment and opportunity to grow as a teacher and performer. 2010 was a stellar year for the career of Professor Blue. His C.W. Post Jazz Ensemble performed at the world-famous jazz venue in NYC called the Iridium. Then later on in the summer they performed four concerts in the south of France as part of the international jazz festival Juan les Pins-Antibe. T.K. also performed at Dizzy’s and the Iridium with his professional band and he recorded his 9th CD as a leader called Latin Bird, which was released on Motema Records in March 2011. T.K. Blue is featured in the new auto-biography by Randy Weston called African Rhythms and he was an associate producer for Randy’s latest CD called The Storyteller, released in November 2010 on Motema Records. T.K. Blue took his group to Dakar, Senegal in December 2010 to perform as part of the 3rd International Black Arts Festival. While in Dakar, he also did a workshop on the History of Jazz: From Africa to America.
2011 was a great year and Latin Bird on Motema Music recieved rave reviews. The CD had been on the jazz charts since the end of March and eventually made it into the top 10. A short documentary video produced by Brian Grady on the making of Latin Bird was nominated for best jazz video by the jazz journalist association
2011 closed with T.K. Blue performing on the soundtrack for a feature film entitled “Queen City” starring Vivica A. Fox. This soundtrack also features many internationally acclaimed artists.
Currently in 2012, Professor Blue has many performances scheduled, including a tour to Oman in the Middle East. He will also produce the first “Jazz Day” on the LIU-Post campus. This event will feature 5 area high school jazz ensembles and master clinicians such as Rufus Reid, Arturo O’Farrill, Earl Williams, and Steve Turre. The culmination of this event is an evening concert with Grammy award winner Herbie Hancock.