Thelonious Monk's compositions and piano playing are declarative and often angular. On "Bobby Broom Plays for Monk" (Origin), Broom, a guitarist who plays regularly with tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, proves subtle and nuanced. With band mates Dennis Carroll (bass) and Kobie Watkins (drums), this is a pleasing alternate take on Monk.
Monk never recorded with a guitarist except on bootleg tapes from a 1940s jam session. His bassist and drummer were straightforward timekeepers, albeit explosive enough, and straightahead soloists. Broom's trio engages in more rhythmic interplay, not the kind where the beat is suspended or only implied but more subtle than one-two-three-four repeatedly. This works especially well on "Rhythm-a-ning" with the infusion of Broom's funky chording and on "Bemsha Swing" with a hint of New Orleans second-line beat.
The spaciousness of the trio is evident throughout these performances -- nothing is rushed, nothing crowded, even when the tempo is fast. Carroll's solos take advantage of the bass' natural percussiveness and low register. Watkins' fills and solos seem more of an extension of an ongoing line than a bombastic exhibition. Broom improvises using single lines predominantly, although his ballad expositions (Monk's "Ruby, My Dear" and Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," for example) are chordally rich.