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Take a moment to tune in to the tasteful playing of guitarist Amanda Monaco on her new effort Glitter. Employing a wide palette of styles and sounds, this gifted instrumentalist makes a bold and entertaining artistic statement with her stunning musicianship and her collection of original compositions. Amanda shines brightly as the bandleader and surrounds herself with some of the heaviest cats on the scene, including organist Gary Versace, drummer Matt Wilson, and baritone saxophone sensation Lauren Sevian. While the session is definitely straight ahead and features some hard swinging highlights, at other moments Glitter is also elegantly lyrical and brilliantly evocative of a more modern jazz sensibility.
The multi-talented Mae West once said that "personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is." West, of course, thrived in a different era, worked in different formats, and was more than likely addressing another artistic discipline entirely with that specific statement. But those remarks still apply here. In fact, everything in there minus the orchestra pit and footlights is really dead-on. Guitarist Amando Monaco's Glitter is the kind of recording that hits the sweet spot for lovers of straight ahead jazz who appreciate a good amount of artistic character and playfulness in their music. These songs swing, simmer, and smile, projecting warmth and joy while showcasing Monaco's no-nonsense playing. If anybody out there still believes musicians can't be serious and have fun at the same time, Glitter may very well cure them of that belief. Monaco's bandmates for this project baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian, organist Gary Versace, and drummer Matt Wilson are a truly simpatico set, equally comfortable paving a zany and crooked path or walking a straight line. There's nothing this crew isn't good at. Looking for a ballad to bring a tear to the eye? Check out this quartet's take on "Theme For Ernie," with Sevian delivering some of the most heart-warming bari work you're likely to hear today. Want something a little more left-of-center instead? Give "Mimosa Blues" and/or "Gremlin From The Kremlin" a try. Versace's puckish wit is painted all over both numbers. Craving something exciting or a pure groove tune instead? This foursome has you covered with the up swing of "Dry Clean Only" and the boogaloo-buoyed "The Mean Reds." Monaco offers something for almost everybody with this playlist. There's a lot to appreciate in these nine tracks Wilson's sterling support and repartee, Versace's wide-ranging vocabulary, and Sevian's flexibility and near-telepathic connection to the leader all certainly register but Monaco's guitar work is at the very top of the list. Her clean-toned approach, directness, and concision qualities that may seem antithetical to the concept of establishing one's own voice actually help her to stand out, both in this mix and in the grand scheme of the jazz guitar world. It's downright refreshing to hear somebody really focusing on putting over melody and delivering a satisfying solo chorus or two of fully comprehensible ideas. All that glitters may not be gold, but this album and its creator certainly are. --All About Jazz, Dan Bilawsky
Even at the acme of the Hammond B-3 organ boom nearly six decades ago bands employing a baritone saxophonist alongside the instrument were a comparatively scarce breed. Jimmy Smith s Six Views of the Blues with Cecil Payne holding down the chair is one of the few albums that spring readily to mind as exemplary of the heavy horn supplanting its tenor cousin in the format. On those grounds alone Glitter merits mention, but guitarist-cum-Berklee professor Amanda Monaco s debut effort for the Positone imprint has plenty more under the cover to recommend it sans reservations. Label mainstay Gary Versace occupies the organ end of the equation with ubiquitous drummer Matt Wilson completing the rhythm section. Lauren Sevian fields the aforementioned baritone, bringing a surprisingly nimble phrasing that keeps the weighty brawn of the instrument pleasingly intact. Monaco pens seven of the nine pieces with Tommy Flanagan s Freight Trane guitarist Fred Lacey s Theme For Ernie each evincing strong historical ties to another saxophonist of no slight esteem on vintage Prestige albums involving the same. Monaco s winsome style on the frets blends fluid single note figures with strong chordal anchoring. Both Versace and Wilson have healthy senses of humor and their shared jocularity rubs off on both the leader and Sevian starting with the fleetly paced bustle of Dry Clean Only. Solos are concise as are the frequent chases with Wilson whose sticks shift congenially from cymbals to snare with a winking self-reflexivity that s heard if not seen. Gremlin From the Kremlin and Girly Day typify more fun with titles. Versace flips the switches on the former for a wonky tonality the locks in Wilson s wobbly Eastern Bloc march that wears its Tom Waits-leaning pedigree proudly. The Mean Reds don t appear to be Communist in origin, but rather of an ilk prone to haunting the sort of primary color lounge spaces where the boogaloo is still in vogue. Monaco dirties her tone, Versace once again lodges tongue gamely in cheek for a sound steeped in compass point just north of kitsch while Sevian slides from jocular to sultry over the span of several pithy statement. Step Counter doesn t quite manage the same hat trick despite more texture-rich blowing and clean picking from the composer and the closing title piece feels similarly compromised by a less than dynamic theme. These partial subjective missteps are the exceptions though and the rest of the date holds figurative water well. --Dusted Magazine, Derek Taylor
Guitarist Amanda Monaco is joined by some terrific players on her Posi-Tone debut. She shares the front line with baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian, while organist Gary Versace and drummer Matt Wilson back them up. Sevian achieves extraordinary speed on the baritone, allowing for a much greater fluidity than you might expect from such a big horn. I m always impressed when someone can wrestle an instrument like a baritone or a tuba into submission and make it into a real melodic voice, and she does so here. Versace is an excellent organist, not as wild as Brian Charette (who s forever threatening to go all prog-rock in the middle of a jazz session) but never as hockey-rink dull as too many other players. And Wilson is simultaneously capable of dead-on swing and a lighthearted, dancing feel. Since this is a Posi-Tone release, you know you re gonna get melody, groove, and swing. Most of the tunes are originals, with the notable exception of Theme For Ernie, a ballad on John Coltrane s 1958 album Soultrane. --Stereogum, Phil Freeman