The next show at Becky Ogden’s house show venue will feature a recently formed quartet of some of Columbus’ finest musicians. On Friday, April 22nd, at 7:30pm, the Tony Monaco/Randy Mather Quartet will play a very intimate show at Bungalow Jazz. This all-star band includes Monaco on organ, Mather on tenor sax, Derek DiCenzo on guitar, and Aaron Scott on drums. Scott was kind enough to share some memories of his history with organ jazz and Monaco – Keep reading for stories of Columbus jazz legends:
Aaron Scott: “I first played with Tony at his parents’ restaurant, Monaco’s, around the mid to late ‘80s. I had regular work with my Dad’s trio then, but also had done a couple of years of steady gigs with the late great organ player Alvin Valentine [At left is a picture from the Stardust Lounge circa late 1980’s: Jimmy McGee on guitar, Valentine on organ, Scott on drums].
I played with Alvin and the great guitarist Jimmy McGee (not to be confused with the Jimmy McGee currently in Columbus). My first gig was at a dive bar at Cleveland & 11th Ave with trumpeter Bobby Alston & guitarist Don Hales around 1986. Jim Rupp referred me for that gig with Alvin, my first gig with an organ player. I was playing regularly with my Dad’s trio at the time. I was born and bred on piano trio music that made up my dad’s repertoire. Oscar Peterson, Nat King Cole, George Shearing, Erroll Garner. Playing Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff-inspired B3 music was completely new to me. Not to mention I was by far the youngest guy, and only white guy other than Don Hales in the room.
That gig changed my life. And I was asked back to play the next night. I learned a great deal about music and life playing there, and at the infamous Stardust Lounge with Alvin. I played every Friday and Saturday for two years with Alvin Valentine. It was on a gig with Alvin at the Stardust that Foley was on, when we were on break, that he told me Miles called him earlier that week. Of course I thought he was full of it. He thought it was a prank, too, and hung up on him the first call. The following week Foley was gone, and played with Miles until his death.
Shortly after leaving Alvin, Joe Hunter came to town. We had a trio for about 10 years. Early in our friendship he introduced me to John Boerstler. We three became fast friends. We still are to this day. We used to stay up late listening to music and John was itching to play some organ jazz. Tony was not known at the time, by anyone, even in Columbus. He did not play out. I got a call for a gig from a friend/promoter to play a new music festival in Powell. I convinced Tony to do the gig. John and Joe Crump also did it. No rehearsal. No nothing. It was great and a band was started, ‘The Grinders’ (after ‘Organ Grinder Swing’). We went on to play regularly around town and opened the 501 Jazz Bar as house band. We featured Jeanette Williams and Willie Pooch alternating on vocals.
It was a unique combination of jazz/blues and classic organ soul jazz. I convinced Tony to come out to the clubs, and start playing gigs. He was an instant phenomena. Our first Comfest gig around the late ‘90s took everyone by surprise. No one knew who Tony was. He was a natural. Joey DeFrancesco heard him, recorded him, and the rest is history.”