It's now over 50 years since Jimmy Smith led the first popular organ-guitar-drums jazz combo. One of the keys to his success was the unique sound of the Hammond B-3. Today's B-3's are physically quite different from the earlier ones, but the sound remains the same bluesy, soulful, funky and, clearly electronic. If you like the sound, you'll like this album. Chicago-based organist Chris Foreman has absorbed many of the best bits of Smith and swinging players who came after, including Jack McGriff and Richard "Groove" Holmes.
The unusual mix of mostly familiar tunes adds to the pleasure. The set begins with the only original, "A Deeper Blue." It's done in a medium-tempo blues arrangement. The organ introduces the melody which it then repeats in unison with the guitar. Bobby Broom, who has played with Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins among many others, has the first solo. That's an early indication that the Deep Blue Organ Trio is well balanced. Foreman plays with more restraint and taste than many of his sometimes over-emoting, stage-hogging predecessors. He doesn't, for example, overdo the extended piercing drone-notes or repeated funky riffs.
The remaining eight tunes are an unusual mix of the familiar because pop songs stand alongside jazz standards. The first of the latter is Hank Mobley's "This I Dig of You," played in an up-tempo that drummer Greg Rockingham pushes nicely with persistent sticks on cymbal and snare.
Lee Morgan's beautiful "Ceora" gets a lightly-swinging samba beat in the only arrangement on the album that doesn't do it for me. I think a "Grazin in the Grass" quote during Foreman's solo is especially out-of-place. But I'm prejudiced because the original "Ceora," on Morgan's album Cornbread, is one of my all time favorites. Great tune.
Back on the pop side, John Lennon's "She's Leaving Home" works surprisingly well. It starts in a slow four. During Broom's gorgeous solo, which is an album highlight, things switch to a blues-tinged waltz that Rockingham really swings once Foreman takes over.
The Stephanie Mills 1980s hit, "Never Knew Love like This Before," is taken at a loping medium tempo. It's a perfect fit for this genial-sounding trio, as is Kenny Dorham's "Short Story," on which Broom again stands out.
The Ohio Players' "Sweet Sticky Thing" wraps the session up. Rockingham once more pushes things along at an up-tempo and finally gets some well-deserved solo time to add an exclamation point.
Foreman emphasizes the B-3's funky sound; Broom plays straight-ahead jazz; Rockingham provides hip support to both; and the song mix is a plus. Recommended.