Review: Bobby Broom and The Deep Blue Organ Trio at Ronnie Scott’s

Bobby Broom and The Deep Blue Organ Trio at Ronnie Scott’s
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved

Bobby Broom and The Deep Blue Organ Trio
(Ronnie Scott’s. 21 May 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

A sparkling corner of Chicago’s jazz world was airlifted to Soho for a couple of nights when The Deep Blue Organ Trio rode into town.

Regularly performing together in Chicago clubs such as the Green Mill, the trio of Bobby Broom (guitar), Chris Foreman (Hammond B-3 organ) and Greg Rockingham (drums) have moulded a tremendous rapport built on pure musical respect. As Broom emphasised, “We are a trio .. a trio …” In other words no clashes of egos, just a visible generosity of spirit which pervaded their single two-hour set.

Foreman and Rockingham go back 25 years and they have such an understanding that they can exchange musical ideas by singing on the phone. Broom first joined them 5 years later, eventually formalising The Deep Blue Organ Trio in 1999, who were then invited to open for Steely Dan on tour.

Bobby Broom’s excitement for jazz was sparked by hearing his father’s copy of Charles Earland’s BlackTalk and the early George Benson and Wes Montgomery shaped his fluent, melodic style. His CV includes two stints with Sonny Rollins, the first of which he delayed at age 16 until he’d finished his studies. He has played in his mentor Kenny Burrell’s Jazz Guitar Band, toured and recorded with Dr John and Tom Browne and had shorter spells with Miles Davis and Art Blakey.

Chris Foreman’s fiery, nuanced flourishes were given centre stage, a reflection of the ethos of the trio and the enjoyment they share in this formidable format. Blind from birth, he immersed himself in the classic Hammond players to lay the foundations of his own irresistible take on the infectious jazz organ groove. The roller-coaster drive and phrasing of the ‘Giants of the Organ’, Jimmy McGriff and ‘Groove’ Holmes is in the DNA of his keyboard work, along with a sense of the balance wielded so memorably by Wild Bill Davis with Ellington’s orchestra, and that ingrained knowledge of when to hold right back, when to apply the distortions and when to pile on the power exemplified by Earland. Virtually every number kicked off with spine-tingling solo organ laced with a wicked sense of dynamics which brought whoops of appreciation from the floor.

Greg Rockingham played it cool – he didn’t need to hammer the skins and metal, he just tickled and tapped them to lay down a lightly teased but rock solid pace with consummate assurance and a gentle grin.

The trio set out its stall with Hank Mobley’s This I Dig of You, getting into cruise control with a swinging pace and crisp, no frills brushwork over which Broom built up extended explorations with masterly understatement, revealing glistening riches just below the surface. Broom’s fascination with Stevie Wonder’s canon let in a lightly camouflaged Ma Cherie Amour that mixed blues and brushes. The trio’s anthemic A Deeper Blue came with the warning from Broom, “You’re in trouble if you don’t like the blues!” which had Foreman showing the B-3’s teeth with searing, juddering licks and Rockingham hitting out with perfect, tight trap work.

In encore slinky, slippery gospel moved into a loose, off-duty jam, which took us right back to the feel of the small club in Chicago where we’d started. It’s easy to forget that the power organ trio is quite a rarity these days, and the quality of The Deep Blue Organ Trio live on-stage was without doubt an experience to be treasured.

The Gareth Williams Power Trio put in a quality performance to open proceedings, notable for Laurence Cottle’s softly gliding bass lines, meshing in deceptively relaxed fashion with Williams, brightly versatile on piano and impressively rounded percussion from Chris Higginbottom.

Bobby Broom: guitar
Chris Foreman: Hammond B-3 organ
Greg Rockingham: drums

Categories: miscellaneous

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