Soul Message Band's "Live at Blue LLama" launches the club's new record label


Soul Message Band, Live at Blue LLama CD back cover

When you walk into Ann Arbor's Blue LLama Jazz Club, the first thing you notice isn't the sound booth. It's the curved long bar that starts near the front door, the ceiling's circle lights, or perhaps the textured sound-absorbing panels that line the back wall of the club. But the sound booth is outfitted with oodles of high-end audio and video gear, and Blue LLama is able to document every performance it chooses to with relative ease. Since the venue often books local artists, recording these shows will provide an invaluable resource covering the recent history of the Ann Arbor and Michigan jazz scenes.

But touring artists are also taking advantage of Blue LLama's high-tech capabilities.

The first live album recorded at the club came out last September on Denmark's venerable Storyville RecordsAdonis Rose Piece of Mind-Live at Blue LLama. The New Orleans drummer and Blue LLama artistic director Dave Sharp discussed making this record while the club was still being designed, and the results are an excellent mix of electric and acoustic jazz.

The club has now taken the next step and formed a label, Live at Blue LLama Records.

The first release is by Soul Message Band, a jazz-organ trio led by Hammond B3 player Chris Foreman along with drummer Greg Rockingham, and guitarist Lee Rothenberg. I interviewed Foreman about his favorite organ players as a preview to this January 31, 2020, show, and he talked about loving the work of Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Brother Jack McDuff, and Dick Hymen. Soul Message Band's feel-good Live at Blue LLama, which was recorded by Sharp and mixed and mastered by another local, Josef Deas, hits all the buzzwords when it comes to organ trios: funky, greasy, bluesy, soulful, smoking.

I'm not sure if there are going to be physical releases of any Live at Blue LLama Records releases, but they'll be on all the streaming services—and you know they'll all sound amazing.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

➥ "Hammond B3 player Chris Foreman and Soul Message Band are steeped in Chicago's swaggering jazz-blues tradition" [Pulp, January 25, 2020]