Starting with the very first notes of "D's Blues"--a languid but powerful riff atop busy drums and droning bass--Bobby Broom bleeds simple, unadulterated blues from his guitar. He keeps it up, with a quiet intensity, for the rest of Upper West Side Story.
His use of clean, pure guitar sound gives his chords a bit of jangle, which provides an added depth to his comping and his chordal solos. He's not an extremely fast player, but his vertiginous solos, spread out across the entire neck, have feeling and always pay deference to the tune. Each note shines.
Broom, in his tribute to the Upper West Side of New York City, reflects the laid-back hustle of the area, though much of the bustle comes from the contrast between his guitar sound and the active drum accompaniment. Bassist Dennis Carroll and the excellent drummers Kobie Watkins and Makaya McCraven push each tune forward, but they stay in the background, always shining a spotlight on the guitar. Their inspired playing works of Broom's guitar to create a contrasting dynamic.
Like Broom's guitar playing, the record itself is sparse. The tunes are shells, with melodies that sometimes, as with the inspired "Minor Major Mishap," work as simple three-note grooves to introduce solos. On the ballad "Father," Broom makes his guitar deep and big, stretching out chords and letting them reverberate. On "Fambroscious (For Fambrough)," he settles things down, building up speed for a playful romp.
Upper West Side Story is a spectacular album when taken as a whole. Broom doesn't try to impress with explosive feats of improvisation on any one tune; his carefully crafted, solos instead weave their way in and out of an album full of pleasant music.