Recording Date: December 18,20, 2011
It's always amusing when a jazz snob claims that jazz and classical are the only legitimate forms of music and that popular culture, past and present, has no artistic value whatsoever. Typically, those who make such ludicrous statements will turn around and sing the praises of The Great American Songbook, meaning prolific Tin Pan Alley pop composers such as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Harry Warren and Cole Porter; in other words, they are endorsing pop songs while claiming to hate pop songs. It makes no sense. So let's set the record straight: popular culture has always been great for jazz. Popular songs have always been excellent vehicles for jazz expression, and there is no reason why jazz musicians should ignore an R&B/pop icon like Stevie Wonder, who the Deep Blue Organ Trio pay tribute to with splendid results on Wonderful. This soul-jazz/post-bop CD approaches nine Wonder songs not as vocal-oriented R&B, but as instrumental jazz. Wonderful is by no means an album of smooth jazz elevator music; organist Chris Foreman, guitarist Bobby Broom, and drummer Greg Rockingham aren't simply playing note-for-note covers of Wonder's songs and calling it jazz; improvising, stretching, and blowing prevail whether the song in question is "You've Got It Bad, Girl," "Golden Lady," "If You Really Love Me," or "Tell Me Something Good" (which was a major hit for Rufus & Chaka Khan in 1974, although Wonder was the composer). But as imaginative and improvisatory as these versions of Wonder songs are, they are also fairly accessible. Take their performance of "My Cheri Amour," for example. Foreman, Broom, and Rockingham approach that '60s gem as a slow ballad, which is a departure from Wonder's medium-tempo approach, and yet, they don't forget the song's romantic, sentimental nature. From a marketing standpoint, the Deep Blue Organ Trio probably made a mistake by not giving this release a slightly longer, more descriptive title. Instead of simply calling it Wonderful, they probably should have come up with something along the lines of Wonderful: The Stevie Wonder Songbook or Wonderful: A Jazz Perspective on Stevie Wonder. Also, the recording date is listed as December 18-20, 2011, which would be impossible because the album went out to the media in July 2011. But none of those things make the performances any less rewarding. Wonderful is an excellent jazz tribute to a soul-pop legend.
All Music Guide