Sometimes when a release is billed as "intimate" or "personal" the words "dull" and "boring" can be easily slid in the mix and sadly be a pretty accurate representation of the end result of recording. I call this artistic death by self indulgence.
Bobby Broom is an artist that is not doing as much of an autobiographical release as much as Upper West Side Story is a story told from the artistic perspective of how it all began and the important things happening now. Music is similar to life in that there is that constant 24/7 learning curve. Upper West Side Story is a unique release of all originals with a graceful sidestep from the more standard and blues related work from his other working band Deep Blue Organ Trio to make his own statement of originality. Broom has been on the scene over thirty years which is seemingly hard to imagine and this impeccable collection is offered with the intent to allow the listener to try and grasp a little more about Broom more so than just a six string snapshot.
Making the unconventional fit the form and functionality of modern jazz finds Broom kicking things off with "D's Blues." A basic three-chord blues is not too far from Broom's comfort zone but some harmonic depth in changes help transition what seems to be the norm into a tune with a texture and flow unique to Broom. Who does Bobby Broom sound like? Bobby Broom. This is the key as to why Broom may be the best guitarist some people may not be as familiar with as others. Broom has been consistently true to his own unique vision and with this tune celebrates the fact he is the end result of his own cultural experience. "Upper West Side Story" is the title track and has Broom working effortlessly without a harmonic net. Shifting dynamics on the fly with Broom working an all most Wes Montgomery like single note attack with the chordal overtones of a Grant Green. While influences are somewhat recognizable to give a specific musical frame of reference in regards to this highly regarded six string technician is virtually impossible. Broom simply has the innate ability to make any tune his own. "Lazy Sundays" is just that, a relaxed exploratory of melodic sensibility and lyrical direction. At times Upper West Side Story can seem deceptively simple when in reality it is the subtle nuances of the disc that continue to reveal something new with each spin.
Three decades is a long time. The Broom resume is most impressive having worked with such luminaries as Sonny Rollins and Kenny Burrell while consistently maintaining his own musical integrity as his legend has grown steadily over time. There are virtually no other guitarists working in modern jazz that embrace the rhythm and blues core of the music. Bobby Broom's music is relateable and accessible to everyone from the "average" listener to the professional admirer. A release of original material has been long overdue. Dennis Carroll handles the bass chair while the drums are split between Kobie Watkins and Makaya McCraven but the rhythm section is tight no matter the combination. An artistic self portrait? In a sense...A 5 Star six string stellar release? No doubt!