In this low-maintenance, upper-end CD, guitarist Bobby Broom strolls softly and intimately through the familiar riches of the Great American Songbook. When you've been playing with Sonny Rollins on and off for 34 years, songs like these become second nature. Rollins would fling them around in spreading orbits of peril to test their mettle. On his own, Broom is far less extravagant and intrusive. He holds them closer, probing carefully with a respectful and uncrowded ease.
This is not an especially ambitious album, but a very welcoming one. There are no dramatic flights of virtuosity, conspicuous emotion or wanton tempos. The fastest pieces never break a relaxed trot. Broom approaches the ballads as a pianist might, framing his lead choruses mostly in warm, caressing chords, then making his own paths almost exclusively in clean, single-note lines that never lose sight of the melody. Is there a more formidable challenge for a musician today than to find surprises hidden within such well-traveled standards?
Broom succeeds subtly, rarely straightahead, and often with the help of bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven, who apply a quiet undertone of unexpected rhythmic counterpoint. After the beautiful and rarely heard verse to "Oh, Lady Be Good," for instance, the trio finds a medium, finger-snapping tempo for a chorus, then decouples from the pulse and floats into more spacious drum-guitar dialog. "Sweet Georgia Brown" becomes interesting less for its juicy changes and what Broom does with them than for the quietly edgy and acentric rhythms McCraven stirs in below the surface.
"Tennessee Waltz" is the shortest of the pieces, the most straightforward and perhaps the most lovely. With its country roots, it still seems like a party crasher in a jazz context. But its simple melodic lucidity makes it rich material for variation, as musicians from Rollins to Art Hodes have shown. Broom does it proud here, ending this collection on a note of repose.