As a major jazz guitarist, Bobby Broom has for many years been hiding in plain sight. Following his Carnegie Hall debut at age 16 with Sonny Rollins, and his first album as a leader at 20, Broom recorded and toured steadily as a valued sideman with artists such as Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Burrell, Dr. John, Charles Earland, and Rollins (whom he rejoined in 2005).
Since the mid-1990s, however, Broom has been focusing much more on his own music, recording a series of critically acclaimed CDs for Criss Cross, Delmark, Premonition, and Origin. His new Origin disc, The Way I Play (Live in Chicago), which will be released April 22, captures Broom and his working trio live at their longtime weekly gig, which the Chicago Tribune calls "one of the best ongoing engagements" in the Chicago area.
"It's flat-out, crazy blowing," says the guitarist of the results. "And it really is a record of how I approach my instrument, of what's important to me musically, of where I stand in the jazz order of things."
The Harlem native, now 47, has been exploring the trio format to rewarding effect not only in his last two CDs, but every Wednesday night for the last ten years at Pete Miller's Steakhouse in Evanston -- the place Broom describes as his "laboratory." On The Way I Play, he delves into a program of jazz standards and American songbook classics -- by Charlie Parker, Richard Rodgers, Sonny Rollins, the Gershwins, McCoy Tyner -- with trio-mates Dennis Carroll, on bass, and drummer Kobie Watkins (below).
"We play these kinds of things every week," Broom says of the tunes, "and I have for my whole life as a jazz guitar player. Now I have both an individual and a group identity to use as a means to approach this music -- and all of the music that we play."
Live in Chicago (& Everywhere)
Bobby Broom, Chicago-based since 1984, has another long-standing trio affiliation in the Deep Blue Organ Trio, which one reviewer has deemed "Hammond B3-guitar-drums jazz of the highest order." Together with organist Chris Foreman and drummer Greg Rockingham, Broom and Deep Blue have to date recorded three albums (and one DVD). Earlier this year, their 2007 Origin disc, Folk Music, received a Chicago Music Award as Best Jazz CD. It also burned up the Jazzweek airplay charts, holding at the #2 position for four consecutive weeks (and remaining in the Top 5 for two straight months).
Broom's own Song and Dance CD (Origin) ranked among Jazzweek's Top 50 airplay records for 2007.
Still a member of Sonny Rollins's band, Broom will be traveling with Rollins this year to Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as making U.S. dates in California, New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Rhode Island, and close to home in Chicago. He's also featured in Rollins's forthcoming Doxy DVD Live in Vienne, recorded in concert at a French festival in 2006.
But Bobby's solo career has never looked or sounded better. His appearance on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz will air in conjunction with the release of The Way I Play (feed date April 22). He's the May cover story for Just Jazz Guitar magazine. And he'll be part of a Jazz at Lincoln Center event celebrating the legacy of Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian. The Rose Theater concerts on May 2 and 3 will feature Broom alongside Jim Hall, Russell Malone, and Bireli Lagrene, with Lewis Nash driving the rhythm section.
"Guitar gets ignored all too often in the jazz pantheon," says Broom. "Perhaps it was the last instrument to lead the jazz band historically, but it has not been without its share of innovative players who have contributed to the art improvisationally, compositionally, and in terms of being influential figures at the forefront of the music's progression. Hopefully, when I play I can speak from the point of view of a beneficiary of the great jazz and jazz guitar work that has come before me."