Monday, September 28, 2015


The genesis of Peter Kogan's Some Monsterful Wonderthing was, of all things, the frustrating 2012 lockout of the Minnestota Orchestra. This was Kogan's day gig, and although the timpanist had high hopes for a reasonably quick settlement, he also took this golden opportunity to record his first studio album as leader - Cornucopia - released in 2013.  As the orchestra stalemate dragged into its 16th month, Kogan began thinking about a follow up disc which would utilize a septet, some new tunes that reflected on the labor struggle he was involved in, and the strong community support that the orchestra musicians received.  Some musical ideas were completely new, and others were fresh takes on older material from Kogan's New York City days. This became Some Monsterful Wonderthing and was finished six months after the orchestra lockout ended. The final mixes and mastering for the recording were completed by the Grammy Award winning engineer Preston Smith. 

SOS Sambadenotes "Save Our Symphony Minnesota," and is dedicated to the Minnesota community that was so supportive of the players during the lockout. The track begins with a samba percussion motif parading from a distance with Kogan playing an SOS Morse Code rhythm 3 times to signal in the band. With the melody introduced by the piano, then flugelhorn, there is a joyous percussion exchange heard between Rogerio Boccato and Kogan to bring back the melody.

Track 2 is LOMoMO Mojo Jump. LOMoMO is the acronym for "Locked Out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra" and is dedicated to Kogan's colleagues. A throwback to Duke Ellington's earliest recorded music with the Cotton Club band, the track starts with a Jimmy Blanton tribute played by bassist Brian Courage, beautifully restated by Scott Agster using a plunger-fitted trombone.  Kogan's temple blocks are reminiscent of Ellington's long time drummer Sonny Greer. Each soloist on this track plays a different groove to celebrate Ellington's broad range of styles.

The title track - Some Monsterful Wonderthing  - is a play on words referring to the Rogers and Hammerstein song  "Something Wonderful" from The King and I. An exorcism and a savage tribute to that tune in reverse, the track contains some searing solos by Cory Wong on guitar, Pete Whitman on soprano sax and Sean Turner on piano.

Kogan wrote Nola Joe imagining what it might be like if Joe Sample had been raised in New Orleans. The whole band gets to have their say on this one.

Gospel Tune is just that. A sweet song that lets the listener imagine their own "Good Book."

McKinley Morganfield's Forever is undoubtedly a tribute to the great Muddy Waters featuring Cory Wong with  Scott Agster standing in for Muddy's voice. The tune's backbeat feel eventually morphs into a bluesy shuffle.

Live to Learn and Love Another Day is a ballad beautifully played by Charles Lazarus on flugelhorn.

Inspired by the guy in the little red wagon,  Question Monk? appropriately challenges the listener to find the beat amidst all the soloing in the tune's 6/4 time.

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