The Hammond B-3 organ does not breed diffidence. With its multiple (presynthesizer) sound effects, the instrument all but demands exuberance; and with its fast-action attack and that sound-swirling Leslie speaker (can’t forget the Leslie!), it fades into the background about as well as a tarantula. For those who play it, the challenge comes in living up to the B-3’s expectations without caving in to them–a challenge that the delightful Chris Foreman meets head on. Foreman swaggers at the instrument, and when he locks into his best grooves, he swings as hard as any player in jazz. But these rhythms never handcuff him; instead they serve as the launchpad for his playful wit and infectious engagement with the music. He revels in the beef-stock chords that the instrument allows, and his melodies tap into the 1950s roots of soul jazz without getting stuck there. Foreman’s love affair with the B-3, and his comfortable command of the foot-pedal bass, would carry most any trio he leads, but this one descends from organ-trio heaven. Most of the credit goes to drummer Gerryck King, who first played with Foreman 20 years ago: his rhythms have a tight, almost claustrophobic effect on the music, focusing the beat to an irresistible pinpoint. Meanwhile, guitarist Jeff Parker plays against type, offering a skittery swing and a tone touched with vinegar. Fronting the band is vocalist Kimberly Gordon, whose steadily developing control of the swing-bebop axis gets an at times overpowering boost from her accompaniment. Listen–you’ve got all day tomorrow to finish wrapping the gifts. Tonight, you get to play Santa for yourself. Friday and next Friday, December 30, 10 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marc PoKempner.