Bobby Broom's latest disc on Origin Records is simply titled, The Way I Play. And after a couple of listens I have to say it's one of the most apropos titles that I've come across. Broom's fluidity and excellent note choice are on constant display through nearly seventy minutes of music. This is an album that is well worth your time and money.
If you've followed Broom's career, the first thing you'll notice is the song choice. Whether he's playing with the Deep Blue Organ Trio or on his own, the song choices he's made or had a part in making have always steered towards classic funk and pop tunes. There are almost always some jazz standards and originals in the mix, too, but the songs always seem to lean towards mainstream familiarity, which is hardly a bad thing. But the need to arrange those pop tunes sometimes seems to take away from the ability of the artist to just kick back and shred.
Well, that's hardly a problem here. On The Way I Play, Broom rips through eight standards, ranging from old school classics like "Fly Me To The Moon" to McCoy Tyner's "Inception." Everything here is firmly within the jazz realm, and everything here is completely straight forward, with no tricky arrangements to be found anywhere. And, unlike his gig with the Deep Blue Organ Trio in which he shares the front line, you've got a guitarist that's taking on the bulk of the work, playing in a more energetic and engaging fashion. Of course, the recording was made at a club where Broom has performed with a top-notch bass player, Dennis Carroll, every week for ten years, and that helps. This band is obviously so comfortable in their collective skin that it's impossible to find anything less than an impeccably placed note or beat anywhere on this disc. It's somewhat annoying to hear the occasional table chitchat or burst of laughter come out of nowhere, but that's part of the deal with live recordings, and the music doesn't suffer one bit.
What makes this disc so charming, though, are the little touches and flourishes and the choice of tempos. Every song on here has something that sets it apart and lets you know that you're listening to a fantastic group that thinks about its song choices and arrangements, which is ever so important when working with a program of standards that we've heard many times before. "Strike Up the Band" is taken at far more relaxed tempo than I'm accustomed to. The guitar/drum duel that gets "Donna Lee" going is striking. "Fly Me to the Moon" starts at a tempo much slower than anyone is used to, and it's a nice touch. "Airegin" is given a neat recasting thanks to Dennis Carroll's hip bass groove that leaves Broom and Watkins a lot of working room. "Body and Soul" is played as a Bossa Nova, and that gives this well-worn ballad some new life. "Surrey With the Fringe On Top" gets an interesting recasting: Broom tinkers with the melody in a few ways that really give this one an edge. All in all, nothing is really new, but everything is completely fresh.
If you're a fan of the Deep Blue Organ Trio or Bobby's other solo work, you will place The Way I Play in the "Favorites" play list on your iPod. And if you're a fan of jazz guitar, or heck, of jazz period, you can't go wrong with this one.