When people listen to records, they think they are hearing just that - a documentation of an actual performance. But this has not really been the case with most popular music since the 1960s. With the advent of multi-track tape and certainly now with digital file-based recording, editing and mixing, musicians are generally recorded one at a time in isolation, building up instruments and vocals like layers of sounds to be edited, mixed and equalized to create a smooth, polished presentation. This recording process is more akin to the post-production of films than the documentation of a musical performance.
Yet today's musicians occasionally return to the simpler, direct approach to recording that existed from the beginnings of the recording industry in the early 1900s through to the 1960s. At that time, all the musicians involved with a recording would be present in the studio, recording the entire tune together using a central microphone to augment individual mics. Thus, the resulting tape was really a representation of an actual musical performance. Mixing and equalization would then finish the process, but the basic recording would be of an actual "live" group performance.
All of the classic jazz LPs from the 1950s and '60s were recorded this way and it is possibly one of the reasons those talented musicians were able to make so many classic albums. The direct "one step" process preserved the interactions, inspirations, communications and emotions among the musicians playing together that makes jazz what it is.
With this in mind, guitarist Bobby Broom has released a recording of his trio performing tunes from the Classic American Songbook - all recorded "live" together in the studio over a three-day period. My Shining Hour
(Origin 82667), features the veteran guitarist along with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven performing nine classic standards, offering new interpretations that reinvigorate familiar melodies.
Starting off with Gus Arnheim's "Sweet and Lovely," Broom and his trio set up a mellow groove that nonetheless bounces along. Set up by drummer McCraven, Broom's spare, unadorned guitar style keeps the focus on the melody. Even during solos, everything is kept within sight of the original melodic line.
Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things" never breaks a mid-tempo stride, but is perfect for Broom, whose wide ranging musical vocabulary finds all sorts of hidden gems within the framework of the 1935 tune. Making what are otherwise very familiar (maybe overly familiar) tunes seem new again is no small feat, and the rendition here brings the tune back to life in ways not heard before in previous jazz versions.
Possibly the most delightful track on the album is "Jitterbug Waltz." Updated from it's swing origins in the 1930s, Broom modernizes the tune, giving it an almost soul/funk feeling - especially in the introduction - while retaining all the musical charm inherent in this Fats Waller original.
But the most surprising track is the last one on the album: the country ballad "The Tennessee Waltz." Here, the guitarist strips out the country sentimentality to reveal a simple melody that nonetheless provides the framework for an excellent solo. At just over four minutes, it may be the shortest tune on the album, but it's the perfect finale to what is likely to be the most satisfying album you will hear this year.
After spending the summer on tour with Steely Dan, opening for the rock legends with his organ trio, the Bobby Broom Organi-sation, Broom is currently playing in and around Chicago, where you can catch some of the magic of this marvelous CD in person. If you find yourself in the Chicago area when he is playing, I would suggest getting there early.