0HtHl\l - Emmeci S.R.L.
BFIOOM GREG ROCKINGHAM CHRIS FOFIEMAN
The music of Stevie Wonder left an indelible imprint on the minds of Bobby Broom,
Chris Foreman, and Greg Rockingham while they were growing in the 1960s and
'70s. Although all three musicians would come to focus on jazz as adults, ratherthan
on pop and R&8, Wonder's songs were simply too sophisticated, melodically and
harmonically, to forget. With Wondertul!, the Chicago-based Deep Blue Organ
Trio's fourth CD and second for Origin Records, guitarist Broom, organist Foreman,
and drummer Rockingham pay homage to Wonder with nine of his compositions
rendered anew in the jazz organ trio tradition of which they have become among the
world's most prominent purveyors.
"Stevie was a huge influence on all of us," Broom states. "Most of my close friends
were really into music long before I became a musician. I just remember anticipating
his next release and everybody running and grabbing them up. Every Stevie release
was an event, from Talking Book to Innervisions to Fullfíllingness' First Finale. That
period in the early Seventies was monumental in terms of what he gave to us in that
Five of the selections on Wonderfull are drawn from the three aforementioned
albums: "You've Got It Bad Girl" from L972's Talking Book, "Jesus Children of
America" and "Golden Lady" from 1973's Innervisions, and "You Havent Done
Nothin"'and "Ain't No Use" from L974's Fullfillingness' First Finale. "As" first
appeared on the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life. "My Cherie Amour," which
Deep Blue does as a ballad, was a hit single for Wonder in 1969. "If You Really
Love Me" was a hit single in L97L. Wonder never recorded "Tell Me Something
Good" himself, but rather wrote it for Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, giving the group
its first Top 10 single ever in 7974.
"We wanted to find the right material and focused on ways to keep the organ trio
sound honest and the way Deep Blue plays intact and do Stevie's music justice,"
Broom says. "We wanted to be creative without going overboard or changing things
just for the sake of changing them. We wanted to get the essence of the songs, do a
little tweaking and go."
"We listened to the songs individually first and made sure that we understood what
was going on within them, and then tried to come up with some type of idea of how
to play them in a different vein," Rockingham adds. "We made sure that we
understood the words of each song so that we could play the melodies true to what
Stevie was saying."
While taking some liberties with the material-transforming, for instance, "Golden
Lady" into a waltz with Broom playing the melody in octaves-the trio retains many
t'You Haven't Done
of the nuances of Wonder's original interpretations, On
Nothin'," the trio uses a repeating three-note riff, sung by the Jackson 5 as
"doo-doo-wop" on Wonder's recording, to help propel the funky groove. And for
"Asr" Foreman borrows licks that Herbie Hancock had played on Rhodes piano on
love Chris's reading of the melodies, just the referencing of little details that Stevie
actually sang as riffs and classic bits of the tunes that are very meaningful to us as
fans, listeners, and musicians," Broom says. "His picking up on those things just
kinda lit up the process."
Broom, Foreman, and Rockingham first played together in 1992 and officially formed
the Deep Blue Organ Trio in 2000. Wonderful! is their fourth recording, following
2OA4's Deep Blue Bruise and 2006's Goin'to Town: Live at the Green Mill, both
on Delmark Records, and 2OO7's Folk Music on Origin Records. For the past nine
years, when not on tour, they've been the Tuesday night attraction at the Green Mill,
an historic Chicago bar where Al Capone once had a regular booth.
Award-winning music biographer David Ritz, who wrote the booklet notes for
Wonderful!, was blown away when he first saw Deep Blue at the Green Mill. "I
broadcast the good news to all my friends," Ritz writes. "I said,'Chris Foreman is
the baddest organist in the land. He breathes blues like we breathe air. Bobby
Broom is killing me with his outlandish chops and ridiculously good taste. Greg
Rockingham has the pocket all sewn up. These guys are playing ballads that have
me weeping, blues that have me moaning, grooves that have me jumping."
Besides appearing at such leading jazz clubs as Scullers in Boston, Dizzy's CIub
Coca-Cola in New York, and Cecil's in West Orange, New Jersey, and at festivals in
the U.S. and Europe, the Deep Blue Organ Trio recently has been opening select
U.S. concert dates for Steely Dan, including three weeks in November 2009 and two
in July 2011.
Broom, Foreman, and Rockingham were unsure of what kind reaction they'd get
from Steely Dan's fans when they first opened for the jazz-influenced pop group at
the Chicago Theater in 2008. "We got out there in the middle of this big stage, and
Chris hit a high note on the organ and played his little introduction on the first tune,
and the crowd went nuts," Broom recalls. "We were so grateful and so thrilled to get
that kind of response. It was really cool."
Bobby Broom, perhaps best known for his membership in tenor saxophone titan
Sonny Rollins's band in the early and mid-1980s and again from 2005 to 2010, was
born in Harlem on January 18, 1961. He got his first taste of jazz at around age 10
when his father brought home a copy of organist Charles Earland's Black Talk
album. Some years later, in the late Eighties and early Nineties, Broom worked as
Earland's guitarist and appeared on his albums Front Burner (1988) and Third
Degree Burn (L989). His other sideman credits include work with Tom Browne,
Hugh Masekela, Kenny Burrell's Jazz Guitar Band, five nights with Miles Davis,
five and a half years with Dr. John, and a 2011 European tour with Ron Carter's
Golden Striker Trio. Since 1981, Broom has recorded 10 albums under his own name
for the GRP, Arista, Críss Cross, Premonition, Delmark, and Origin labels.
Greg Rockingham practically has the Hammond B-3 organ running through his
veins. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, on September29,1959, he is the son of organist
David Rockingham, leader of the David Rockingham Trio, which scored a national
pop hit in 1963 with a boogaloo-flavored instrumental titled "Dawn." Greg began
sitting in with the trio when he was 5 and was a regular member from age 9 to 16.
After graduating high school, he toured for eight years with the Guy Lombardo ghost
band and for eight months with the Glenn Miller ghost band, then spent a decade
with Charles Earland, on whose albums Blowing the Blues (L997) and Jazz Organ
Summit (1998) he appeared. He owns two Hammond B-3 organs, as well as four
Leslie speakers, and transports the organ and speakers to all of the Deep Blue Organ
Trio's gigs for longtime friend Chris Foreman.
Foreman, who was born blind in Chicago on September 16, L957, started playing
piano at age 7 but became enamored of the jazz organ as a teenager. "I was
fascinated with the sound of the organ and how different sounds could be obtained
from it," he explains. He made his recording debut in 1981 on blues guitarist Albeft
Coflins's Don't Lose Your Cool album and later cut two CDs with the Mighty Blues
Kings. Inspired by such organ greats as Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff,
Charles Earland, Richard "Groove" Holmes, and Dick Hyman, Foreman is something
of a historian of organ jazz. Earlier Jazz organ versions of Stevie Wonder tunes, he
recalls, were McGriff's recordings of "Uptight" and "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered,"
an upbeat treatment of "You've Got It Bad Girl" by Holmes, and a rendition of "My
Cherie Amour" by Earland.
"Ours is more mellow and subdued," Foreman says of the Deep Blue Organ Trio's
arrangement of "My Cherie Amour." "I like ours better."
Foreman and Rockingham had been playing together for several years in various
bands before they met Broom. "There's a chemistry that the three of us have that's
special," the guitarist says,
Foreman concurs. "We listen to each other," he states. "Some things we don't even
talk about. If you don't talk about it so much and just let the music happen, then it
happens. Sometimes the results are amazing, sometimes they're funny, sometimes
they're surprising. That's what I like about it-the chemistry, the camaraderie."
That special chemistry is quite evident as Broom, Foreman, and Rockingham lovingly
reinterpret nine selections from the Stevie Wonder songbook on their new Origin
Records release. Their organ jazz take on his music, to borrow from the CD's title, is
WOnderfUI! lorigin Records)
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