Earlier this year, the SFJAZZ Collective reminded listeners of the incredible flexibility Stevie Wonder incorporated into so many of his hits when the group named the legendary singer and songwriter as its muse for its album and tour. Attention-wise, that fact may overshadow the new Wonder homage released by Chris Foreman's organ trio--but it would be a shame. The trio, which has been together for more than a decade, plays together every Tuesday at Chicago's Green Mill Club, where they bring together their wealth of experiences. Guitarist Bobby Broom has worked with Sonny Rollins and Dr. John. Both Broom and drummer Greg Rockingham worked with organist Charles Earland.
Even without the addition of their own Wonder-inspired pieces, Foreman, Broom and Rockingham have surpassed the "tribute album" moniker here, opening up both classics and lesser-known material to coax new layers of meaning from within the canon of popular music.
"My Cherie Amour" begins cautiously, as a ruminative Foreman skips lightly over the melody with one hand while laying down an almost dark series of rich chords with the other. Steady and serious, with plenty of attention paid to the lower register, he slowly builds his way to the carefree and joyful feel of Wonder's original tune. Trading solos with Bobby Broom, the pair toys with Wonder's changes until, finally, Foreman burns his way into a bursting-at-the-seams climax to counteract the tune's sparse and controlled opening.
More often than not, though, Foreman, Broom and Rockingham operate as a tight unit, the result of decades spent working together. They unfurl "Tell Me Something Good" as a team, with Rockingham shaking the tune's rhythm like a pan on a stove as Foreman and Broom set the stage for one of the disc's funkier numbers.
Another highlight, "Golden Lady," shines a light on Foreman's reverence for his instrument's roots in the church, although it's Rockingham's rhythms that leave a residue once the song concludes.