It's important to note that virtuoso Chicago jazz guitarist Bobby Broom did not want to make a typical standard cover album in the August 19th release from Origin Records, My Shining Hour
His previous release, the broad-reaching 2012 Upper West Side Story
contains all original, deeply personalized musical accounts of life growing up in New York City. On the strength of that album and a sterling history of recognizably original music, DownBeat editors picked Broom out of thousands recently as a top guitarist in the Critics Poll, his third time.
For My Shining Hour
, Broom brought in his long-standing trio with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven to play the old standards in a non-standard manner. Some of these standards are so old, they might as well be antiques of 1920s-1940s Americana ("Jitterbug Waltz," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Tennessee Waltz," "Sweet And Lovely").
Broom also didn't want to mess too much with the quality of the original sound his trio gave to the nine covers. So they recorded the songs in Chicago's Shirk Studios March 6-8, directly onto a custom, eight-track tape recorder with one stereo room mic and spot mics on the individual instruments, without any overdubs, instrument isolation, or headphones. Totally old school. How's that?
When Broom started his trio in 1991, he did not have any interest in going over the same well-worn, standard paths. Then, Carroll thought the trio could do a world of good to Fats Waller's ancient "Jitterbug Waltz." Now that was something Broom could work with. After incorporating this classic into the trio's repertoire, other "great songs that have lasted, that became part of the American quilt, came into view," Broom explained in his July 9, 2014 press release. "Only one of the pieces we recorded had been in the trio's repertoire. These were all newly approached by me and the group."
Broom definitely steered clear of playing these standards like everybody else by really zooming in on the elaborative interpretations found in the solos and the percussive strikes punctuating mood in every piece.
Cole Porter's "Just One Of Those Things" is seven minutes of expansive individual and collective play, from Carroll's new-fangled upright bass, where he sounds as if he's playing the loosest of strings for the full, staggering effect, to McCraven's jumpy marching sticks and canons. Broom lays a billowing course for these guys to truly roam.
McCraven, the latest in a long line of drummers, is the relatively new kid on the block, the trio's five-year recruit. Broom found a safe place for McCraven's restless sure shots. "Makaya is all of 30, and he came along after Kobie [Watkins] was getting really busy," Broom noted, also from the press release. "He's got a certain nonstop intensity and energy, a free-flowing array of ideas that touch on a variety of styles. And Dennis and I have played for such a long time we really work as a tandem. He's very harmonically astute, and wants to find the right colors for the moment."
When Carroll brought "The Jitterbug Waltz" into the Bobby Broom Trio's repertoire, the Chicago bassist knew what he was doing. Carroll's been with the trio for over two decades. He's all over this waltz, tight in the grooves with McCraven's beats but bouncing his own voluminous numbers. They trip lasciviously down the line while Broom coaxes their lopsided treads with his probing curvature, almost duplicating the bass and drums well past the 5:22 mark. All this is just in the call and response part of the nearly seven-minute waltz, which plays more like a top-heavy contemporary jazz cascade.
For just the bandleader, look no further than the title track. His bassist and drummer step comfortably in the role of backing sidemen. Broom handles the Harold Arlen song by gripping the top and bottom of the brassy tracks with a infrequency of a man on furlough. Occasionally rolling along on a wanton riff, sometimes bottoming out of a bass boom, Broom exudes sweetness and light, then turns sharp corners, merely hinting at the depthless charge he's more than capable of.
Bobby Broom's more than capable of shredding. He's set fire to his guitar with torrid notes sliding on an angular progress at breakneck speed. But he doesn't do any of that on My Shining Hour. He takes it nice and easy, barely touching the strings of his guitar to elicit the outline and the soulful imprint ("The Heather On The Hill" really exemplifies this restraint), letting his bassist and drummer swerve into an ambulatory scorch now and again, but never letting go of the bluesy swing ("Oh, Lady Be Good"). That's confidence.
Brown's been busy touring as Steely Dan's opening act with his new Organi-sation ensemble with organist Ben Paterson and drummers Makaya McCraven/Kobie Watkins for the rock 'n roll band's 2014 Jamalot Ever After Tour. He'll carve out time for an official CD release show with his guitar trio at the Chicago Jazz Festival August 31, 5 p.m., at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. It'll be the first time in almost 15 years since the Bobby Broom Trio performed at the Chicago Festival - a nice full circle of sorts. "Back then was a significant time for us. We were still forming our identity and had just recorded, but not released, Stand!
It will be great, after the whirlwind Steely Dan tour, to return home in more ways than one and to play this glorious venue," he added on his press release.