Album: Soulful Days
Street Date: February 15, 2019
Label: Delmark Records
On their Delmark debut, the Chris Foreman-Greg Rockingham-led ensemble, Soul Message Band, which features guitarist Lee Rothenbeg and ace saxophonists Greg Ward and Geof Bradfield, present a nine-track masterclass in soulful, organ-led jazz. This infectious, funky, and outright joyous release will be celebrated on March 9th at Andy’s Jazz Club in Chicago.
The Soul Message Band is anchored by the steadfast team of organ master Chris Foreman and stalwart drummer Greg Rockingham. The chemistry between the two is instantly palpable, honed over the course of twenty-five years in a variety of musical combinations. Most famously, Foreman and Rockingham were two-thirds of the Deep Blue Organ Trio- a true Chicago institution that wowed audiences in jazz clubs and arenas alike for more than two decades.
As described in the Soulful Days liner notes by celebrated writer Michael Jackson, Rockingham was practically “baptized in B3 jazz”. His father Dave was an organist and employed his son’s backbeat at the age of 5 years old. Rockingham continued to hone his skills with Earland, the “Mighty Burner”, with whom he played for over a decade. Bradfield recalls doing a gig with Earland and Lonnie Smith at Chicago’s Green Dolphin Street in 1997: “Great as those two masters were, a highlight was Chris Foreman showing up and bringing the house down…Earland was so excited by the groove Rock and Chris were hitting, he even borrowed my tenor and played a couple choruses!”
Some of the sweetness beyond the spice of Soulful Days comes from Bradfield and Ward, both of whom are in throws of skyrocketing careers; Bradfield’s 2018 debut for Delmark Yes, and… Music For Nine Improvisers received worldwide acclaim while Greg Ward’s recently released Stomping Off From Greenwood has already been shortlisted as one of the years’ best jazz recordings by NPR. A consummate composer, Ward’s contribution “Uncertainty” is one of Soulful Days’ high points.
Rounding out the ensemble is guitarist Lee Rothenberg. Since he arrived in Chicago in 2005, Rothenberg has become of the scene’s most in-demand musicians. He has performed all throughout the city, making himself a fixture at clubs such as The Green Mill, Andy’s, the Jazz Showcase, the Jazz Estate and others. In addition to his skillful playing, Rothenberg’s compositional chops are also on display on the album, evidenced by the grooving album opener “Sir Charles”.
On Soulful Days, the quintet tackles nine tunes including Grant Green’s “Matador”, Wayne Shorter’s “Hammer Head” and the Jimmy Smith classic “J.O.S.” “My love for the Hammond B3 dictated some of the music, but these were also tunes that we all enjoyed, and had fun playing,” said Rockingham. That love for the instrument, and between the two compatriots, Rockingham and Foreman, is palpable on Soulful Days. This masterful debut sets the bar for organ combos high. It doesn’t get much better than this.
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Together, Foreman and Rockingham cook up a delectably greasy rhythmical groove that underpins this entire program and this debut from the Soul Message Band is more a realization than an introduction." Read the full review here.