If you want a jazz definition of "stretching out," listen to this live album, in which we find Bobby Broom's long-time trio elongating and compressing familiar melodies and the beat in exploratory fashion. Without trying to pin jazz down, it's tempting to say this is the way jazz should be, at least in terms of inventiveness. The music and the modus operandi are fascinating.
The album originated when one of Broom's former students presented him with minidiscs of several of the trio's weekly gigs from 2007 at Pete Miller's, a steakhouse in Evanston, Ill. For Broom, the choicest performances turned out to be standards: "Strike Up the Band," "Donna Lee," "Fly Me To The Moon," "Unit 7" and others the trio plays every gig. Familiarity breeds intimacy and creativity, in this case. No complacency anywhere.
The trio, with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Kobie Watkins, can be compared with Sonny Rollins' (Broom's boss off and on for 25 years), and the classic John Coltrane Quartet. Broom is a Rollins-like melodist, playing with and against the groove and running the melody up and down harmonic and rhythmic alleys and avenues. The group is more Coltrane-like, especially in view of Watkin's Elvin Jones-like dance about the melody with Broom.
"Strike Up the Band," the opener, captures all the aforementioned elements of the group while establishing an attitude of thoughtfulness and serious work at hand. "Donna Lee," fast and oblique, shows that bebop improvisation isn't always about zipping through touchstone patterns. "Fly Me to the Moon" strikes the strongest groove on the album. Broom's playing throughout the session sets aside the listener's thoughts about his influences. Oh, there's something here and there that may recall Kenny Burrell or Wes Montgomery or others, but mostly you focus on Broom's ingenuity and what's coming next - always a good sign that the artist and the group are taking care of business, as they say.