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At Former Al Capone Hangout, The Hammond B3 Is The Star

David Schulman | NPR Music



The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is really a Chicago classic. There's a neon sign, brick front. It used to be a speak-easy. Al Capone even hung out there. These days, it is a jazz club. And most Friday nights, a guy named Chris Foreman makes his way behind the bar - not to pour drinks - to play the Hammond B3. It's one of those big, funky organs you hear in old R&B, gospel or jazz.


GREENE: Love that sound. Let's hear more of it. As part of our series, The World's A Stage, let's listen to Chris Foreman describe how he works both the Hammond B3 and also the happy hour crowd.


CHRIS FOREMAN: I'm sitting right behind the organ, behind the bar. You can listen to them talk. You can tell whether it's going to be a tough one or an easy crowd. They're just murmuring (imitating crowd murmurs). So you kind of want to sneak up on them. And then all of the sudden, you start hearing people clapping - and I assume not in their heads. You can hear some finger snaps. Once you're getting locked in, you'll feel it.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Where'd you get that guy?

FOREMAN: When you feel it, you're going to hear it. When you hear it, you're going to play it - and if you hear somebody scream back there, yeah, that's it.

This is happy hour. And they're coming, really, to take their mind off the day, you know? And when they're relaxed, I'm relaxed. The first set's harder. When you can get them on the first set, (laughter) you got them.

Fridays, I play at the Green Mill by myself. The show is called The Flipside. So I play jazz, blues, and then Sunday - Sunday morning. I do play with St. James AME Church - 10:30 service. So one is here...


FOREMAN: ...To here.


FOREMAN: (Laughter).


FOREMAN: Where's he going? I don't know what he's doing. I hope this is (unintelligible). Once you see it headed a certain direction, you go, OK, this is where he's headed. It's telling a story.


GREENE: We were listening there to musician Chris Foreman in Chicago. And that piece came to us from producer David Schulman.


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