December 13, 2012
When you listen to Chris Foreman play, you're going to have a good time. Or he'll scold you. Playing solo organ jazz Friday evenings at the Green Mill, Foreman has each side of the room clank glasses or tap tables in rhythm. Whichever side sounds louder wins his graces.
"I'll challenge them and say, 'You're not going to let them out play you, are ya?'" Foreman said.
The blind organist, who also regularly plays with the Deep Blue Organ Trio, has played formally since he was 14. Often making quips about his blindness and challenging the audience with trivia while playing an appropriate mysterious tune as they mull over possible answers, Foreman said keeping the audience engaged and guessing is essential. Otherwise, he said, loyal attendees of his 5 p.m. Friday show "The Flipside" will grow immune to the jokes and songs.
"You play the same song, but you try to put a different coat of paint on it than last time," Foreman said. "Other times, to keep them coming back, you may want to put that same song away for a while and try something else, and they'll say, 'Wow I don't think I've ever heard you play that one before.' It's kind of a give and take."
Foreman said he fell in love with jazz as a kid when his mother bought him numerous records, including organ jazz. Now, he said, his style is heavily influenced by the blues. He has fun performing and interacting with the audience and continues to try pieces that take him out of his comfort zone, he said.
Green Mill owner Dave Jemilo said even big "New York artists" like saxophonist and flutist Dave Liebman are impressed by Foreman. Last time Liebman played at the Mill, he came to set up early and liked Foreman's style so much he joined right in, Jemilo said.
"He's kind of our guy," Jemilo said. "He's like part of the family. When he gets done on Friday, he always sticks around to listen to the next gig."