Wonderful! presents the Deep Blue Organ Trio's jazz take on nine Stevie Wonder hit songs that span Talking Book (Motown, 1972) to Songs in the Key of Life (Motown, '76), plus Wonder's 1969 hit single "My Cherie Amour" and "Tell Me Something Good," Chaka Khan's breakout from Rags to Rufus (MCA, '74) by Rufus (and which Wonder never recorded).
Guitarist Bobby Broom, drummer Greg Rockingham, and Hammond B-3 organist Chris Foreman have played together for two decades and formed the Deep Blue Organ Trio, a mainstay on the Chicago jazz-blues circuit, in 2000. The delightfully named Rockingham knows about drumming with B-3 funkmeisters from playing on albums like Charles Earland's Blowing the Blues Away (High Note, 1997) and Jazz Organ Summit (Cannonball, 1998) with Earland, Jimmy McGriff, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Johnny "Hammond" Smith.)
Wonder's music provides tasty sustenance for this Trio's prodigious chops. Rockingham's second-line drum rhythm makes "Tell Me Something Good" dance and hop, while Foreman and Broom swap improvisations in blue tones sharp yet warm. Foreman slows down the verses to "gospel-ize" "If You Really Love Me" while its chorus relaxes into a limber blues strut, then extinguishes the blue embers of "My Cheri Amour" by quoting the melody to Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky." Foreman chases "You Haven't Done Nothin'" down a different path: It opens with his testifying, solo and soulful, then strolls through a solidly funky shuffle that sounds like John Medeski auditioning for the Motown house band!
Broom's Wonderful! sound is a seamless blend of jazz and blues, playing soul that consistently and insistently wants comparison with master Wes Montgomery. He plays "Golden Lady" (arranged as a waltz!) in octaves, his round full notes in "It Ain't No Use" glow with a rich, mellow tone, and his warm lines light the fireplace that smolders beneath the quiet-storm ballad "You've Got It Bad Girl." It's also remarkable how, through all these tunes, Broom and Foreman uncannily echo the phrasings and textures of Wonder's original vocals.
"Stevie Wonder provided the highlights for the soundtrack of our teen years," Broom reflects. "Without a doubt, Stevie was most influential to our core musical value system. I can speak for the group in saying that we are grateful to finally be able to render his music with some accuracy, honesty, feeling, reverence, and the special touch of the Deep Blue Organ Trio."