The 2022 return of Ronnie Foster to Blue Note Records is an event of synergistic quintessence, completeness, and cool. The organ great’s dynamic new album, Reboot, arrives upon the 50th anniversary of his 1972 Blue Note debut Two Headed Freap, which is also being reissued this year as part of the label’s Classic Vinyl Series. 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. After Wolff passed away a few months later, Ronnie was officially signed to Blue Note by Dr. George Butler making him the next in an illustrious lineage of Hammond B3 organ artisans the label had presented which included the legendary Jimmy Smith, Larry Young, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. To this accord, Ronnie’s re-signing is a bold torch-passing move that brings him full circle.
“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.”
The nine-song Reboot marks a fresh start for Foster, who has whipped up an omnidirectional brew of Hammond Organ Groove that, yes, pays homage to the past but more often reflects Ronnie’s restlessness for ushering in the new. The album opens with the title track, which he describes as “organ music…but a little different. This is where my head is at now – and where I’m going.” His journey to that destination rides on a winding melody, not one but two bridges, and a rock steady groove kicked down by his son, drummer Chris Foster, one of four cuts he plays on here, rendering Ronnie: One Proud Papa.