Deep Blue Organ Trio – Wonderful! – Origin Records 82595, 62:12 ****1/2:
(Chris Foreman – Hammond B3 organ; Bobby Broom – guitar; Greg Rockingham – drums)
The music of Stevie Wonder is unique. As pop songs, they are precise and infectious. But the gospel and r&b roots seem to create a natural feel for jazz arrangements. Wonder’s experimental approach to chord structure allows for edgier jams. Deep Blue Organ Trio, a veteran group from Chicago has been a standard bearer of soulful jazz. Since 2000 they have recorded four albums, toured the world and played with a variety of prominent jazz musicians.
On their newest release Wonderful!, Deep Blue Organ Trio brings textured jazz dynamics to several Wonder classics from the late sixties and seventies. With equal parts of smooth flair and jazzy intonations, familiar compositions are recreated with accessible results. A surprising opening rendition of the Rufus hit, “Tell Me Something Good” gets the album off to a rousing start. Chris Foreman’s lead on Hammond is joined by Bobby Broom (who produced and arranged the nine tracks) on guitar as the song begins. Foreman swings on the first verse with his understated licks, while Broom adds stylized solos. Early Wonder material is covered on “If You Really Love Me”. The trio has an organic feel for the music’s jauntiness and catchy rhythm. Foreman utilizes many tones on the Hammond, while Broom’s solo notation is impeccable. The ending features a minute-long note sustain with some riffs from “Grazin’ In The Grass” thrown in for good measure.”My Cherie Amour” gets an atmospheric treatment as the band slows the tempo down, transforming up beat pop to late night reverie. Both Foreman and Broom explore the melody’s bluesy nuances.
Two songs from the seminal 1973 recording, Innervisions showcase the cohesive trio dynamics. A smoking version of “Jesus Children Of America” has the cool swagger of organ soul/jazz groups like Booker T and The MGs and Jimmy McGriff. Greg Rockingham’s straight ahead drumming is exemplary and combines effortlessly with either instrument in tempo lockstep. Again, Foreman is masterful on the Hammond, while Broom percolates on various guitar runs. “Golden Lady” has dense rich tones on organ that are complemented by the crisp guitar play.
Without the framing of vocals, the instrumentation generates an emotional connection. “As” (from Songs In The Key Of Life) has the joyful urgency of the original. “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” is a smoky groove-accented excursion that opens with a scintillating organ that morphs into funky improvisation. Broom demonstrates why he is among the elite guitarists with an extended solo. The album comes to a satisfying close with a faithful adaptation of “You’ve Got It Bad Girl” (from the 1972 breakthrough Talking Book). The ethereal, romantic mood is captured with lush delicacy.
TrackList: Tell Me Something Good; If You Really Love Me; Jesus Children Of America; My Cheri Amour; Golden Lady; You Haven’t Done Nothin’; It Ain’ t No Use; As; You’ve Got It Bad Girl
A 50 year expanded reissue of a late-career Peggy Lee album hits the mark.