Ronnie Foster, Reboot Review
by Jeff Becker
Ronnie Foster is back! The Hammond Organ and piano player is releasing his dynamic new album, Reboot, arriving upon the 50th anniversary of his 1972 Blue Note debut Two Headed Freap. The first in a run of five stellar early-70s albums, Two Headed Freap featured Foster’s memorable tune “Mystic Brew,” which would later reach the ears of hip-hop fans around the world when A Tribe Called Quest sampled the track as the foundation of “Electric Relaxation” on their 1994 album Midnight Marauders. Foster first caught the ear of Blue Note co-founder Francis Wolff when he made his first-ever recording as a sideman on jazz guitar legend Grant Green’s searingly funky Blue Note LP, Alive! in 1970. Foster now joins an illustrious lineage of Hammond B3 organ artisans the label presented, including the legendary Jimmy Smith, Larry Young, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. The nine-song album contains a fresh omnidirectional brew of Hammond Organ Groove that gives homage to the past while still ushering in the new. His son, drummer, Chris Foster, performs on four cuts here, rendering Ronnie: One Proud Papa.
“Reboot” opens the album. Foster describes it as “organ music…but a little different. This is where my head is at now – and where I’m going.” The song form has a lyrical melody, not one but two bridges, and a steady groove propelled by father and son. The guitar and B3 have a vibe that makes the song have energy and exciting colors. Foster knows groove, and this one is deep. “Blue Note has always stood for The Art of Jazz,” Foster marvels. “I grew up on Blue Note, listening to all the greats. It was ingrained early. I was exposed to it through my own path and other people’s paths – fans and players. I had some albums; my friends had other albums. When something new came out, we’d go to someone’s house, and we’d all check it out…together. From Horace Silver and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers to Donald Byrd and Herbie Hancock, Blue Note’s roster was the cream of the crop – the center. And, of course, they brought Jimmy [Smith] on the scene. The stuff he was playing on The Sermon and Groovin’ at Smalls’ Paradise was crazy! Had me listening on headphones at the Buffalo Public Library.”
Foster applies his sense of groove to a Latin-tinged “Carlos,” a composition inspired by Mexican Rock legend Carlos Santana. The song features a flamenco guitar intro played by Jerry Lopez. The stunning melody leads to guitarists Michael O’Neill’s and Foster’s eruption of tasteful solos. Percussionists Luis Conte and Lenny Castro add to the rhythmic texture and turn up the Latin heat. Throughout it all, though, the wonderful groove feeling is always present and the focus.
Reboot ensures the legacy of the Blue Note organ torch is safe with Ronnie Foster. Foster is the current keeper of the groove flame, ever burning on his custom humming Hammond XK-5. This album will not disappoint in its groove and performances by all the various musicians.