September 5, 2007 — The members of the Deep Blue Organ Trio -- organist Chris Foreman, guitarist Bobby Broom, and drummer Greg Rockingham -- cultivate a deep love and respect for the jazz-organ tradition and, since the 1990s, have been exploring their own singular take on it. Their two previous Delmark releases -- Deep Blue Bruise (2004) and Goin” to Town (2006) -- established the trio’s joyful approach and potent chemistry, forged in the course of their longtime Tuesday-night gig at the Green Mill in Chicago.
Folk Music is the trio’s newest CD, due for release by Origin Records on October 16. “What we do is kind of a folk music because of the legacy of organ combos in jazz,” says guitarist Broom, who produced the new CD. “The organ used to be in all the clubs. We used to groove to it, go out to the neighborhood tavern and hang out, listen to the organ groups, and have a good time.
”But I was also thinking of what folk music is -- a music of, by, and for the people,“ says Broom. ”The common folk, if you will. And people do respond strongly to our music.“
Folk Music’s repertoire places an emphasis on the full continuum of the black music experience, from the Ohio Players (”Sweet Sticky Thing“) and Stephanie Mills (”Never Knew Love Like This Before“) to standards (”I Thought About You“) and mainstream jazz (Lee Morgan’s ”Ceora,“ Hank Mobley’s ”This I Dig of You,“ ”Short Story“ by Kenny Dorham), with the Beatles thrown in for good measure (”She’s Leaving Home“).
Broom, who leads his own guitar/bass/drums trio, sees the guitar/organ/drums format as a whole other challenge. ”All the guitarists I listened to coming up played with great organists -- Pat Martino with Charles Earland and later with Don Patterson, George Benson with Jack McDuff, Wes Montgomery with Mel Rhyne, and Kenny Burrell (and just about all of the aforementioned guitarists) with Jimmy Smith. It’s part of the guitar idiom and lineage,“ he points out.
”The first person I really heard in jazz was Charles Earland, and then I got an opportunity to work with him for many years, as did Greg [Rockingham]. So to be in a situation to play with Chris [Foreman], who’s lesser known but is one of those organists of the highest order, is important to me. I place a high value on this group, because I understand their level of musicianship.“
In the Tradition
Earland’s Black Talk was the record that captivated Bobby Broom, who was born (1961) and raised in New York. While attending the High School of Music and Art, he got the call to audition for Sonny Rollins and made his debut, at age 16, with Rollins at Carnegie Hall (he’s been a member of Rollins’s current band since 2005). Broom relocated to Chicago in the early 1980s, and was soon playing and recording with Earland. (His other sideman credits include Tom Browne, Kenny Burrell, and Dr. John.)
Drummer Greg Rockingham, born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1959, is the son of organist David Rockingham, in whose trio Greg was a regular member from age 9 to 16. After working for eight years with the Guy Lombardo ghost band straight out of high school, he spent a decade with Charles Earland’s group. ”The B-3 is such a powerful instrument,“ says Rockingham. ”When all the stops are pulled out, it’s like a full horn section. You’re playing the kicks like you would in a big band.“
Chris Foreman, who was born blind in Chicago in 1957, started on piano but by the time he was in his teens had become enamored of jazz organ. He listened to all the great organists when he was growing up: ”I’d hear them on the radio. I was fascinated with the sound of the organ and how different sounds could be obtained from it,“ he explains. Foreman made his recording debut in 1981 on blues guitarist Albert Collins’s Don’t Lose Your Cool, and later cut two CDs with the Mighty Blue Kings.
Rockingham and Foreman had been playing together for several years in various bands when Broom first bumped into them in the early 1990s. ”They have a unique sound together,“ the guitarist says. ”It’s a very comfortable feeling -- classic, simpatico. There’s a chemistry the three of us have that’s special.“
”We listen to each other,“ Foreman concurs. ”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.“
In his notes to Folk Music, annotator Larry Hollis draws some telling comparisons between the Deep Blue Organ Trio and the best-selling group from Blue Note Records’ heyday, the Three Sounds. ”The Deep Blue Organ Trio reminds me strongly of a soul-jazz update of them,“ he writes, ”which is a big compliment in my book. After all, they both play music for the folks."
(In addition to their standing gig at the Green Mill, the Deep Blue Organ Trio plans to venture farther afield in the coming months in support of Folk Music. First up is the 7th annual Jazz Party at Sea, which sets sail to the Caribbean from Miami on November 3.)