Saturday, August 20, 2011

Deep Blue Organ Trio's Wonderful Musical Tribute

Composed of organist Chris Foreman, guitarist Bobby Broom and drummer Greg Rockingham, the Deep Blue Organ Trio has established itself with its live performances and recordings, first for Delmark and more recently the Seattle based Origin label. The trio’s 4th recording (on Origin) is devoted to the music of Stevie Wonder, Wonderful! Broom I am aware from his own recordings as well as his time with Sonny Rollins Band. I was not aware that he had spent five years playing with Dr. John. Neither organist Foreman nor drummer Rockingham were familiar to me although Foreman has recorded with Albert Collins for Alligator.

Tribute albums always leave themselves open to comparison with the originals and a listener’s expectations of how a song should be interpreted sometimes affects how one views the tribute performances. In this respect, there are times I find the Deep Blue Trio a bit mellower than I would prefer such as the My Cherie Amour, with its very slow tempo. At the same time one can appreciate Foreman’s chicken fried, blues-drenched and church-based playing along with Broom’s tasty, thoughtful playing with his judicious use of sustain in between his considered single note runs, as Rockingham deftly moves the performance. A song like the shuffle Jesus States of America, which I was not familiar with, benefits from Foreman's driving organ as Broom chords behind.

I was not aware that the Rufus with Chaka Khan hit Tell Me Something Good, was a Wonder composition, but certainly  enjoyed Foreman’s opening and his comping under Broom’s solo. One of my favorite Wonder songs is You Haven’t Done Nuthin’, which has Foreman opening. He states and embellishes Wonder’s intricate melody, then provides a cushion for Broom single note runs, followed by his own strutting solo. Broom is a terrific guitarist but Foreman was to this listener a revelation. Based on this small sample of his music, he is among today’s premier organists. Add Rockingham’s supple drumming, and the Deep Blue Organ Trio’s Wonderful stands not simply as a terrific tribute to Stevie Wonder, but also a marvelous organ trio record. It will have me checking out the trio’s earlier releases.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

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