Chicago-based guitarist Bobby Broom, a dynamic solo artist (The Way I Play: Live in Chicago) and member of Sonny Rollins' band since 2005, sets his sights on ten of Thelonious Monk's most frequently covered tunes on what should be a career-changing album. "Bobby Broom Plays for Monk" is a deeply satisfying trio recording that showcases Broom's warm, lustrous tone on imaginative arrangements of tunes that were radical in their day but now have mainstream jazz appeal. The press notes describe Broom as "trying to maintain the essence and the spirit of the music and do so without replicating idiosyncrasies of [Monk's] playing." Indeed, Broom preserves Monk's angular melodies but smoothes out the delivery without sacrificing the uniqueness of Monk's music. Interestingly, guitar was never featured on any of Monk's most well known albums.
The session begins with a leisurely "Ask Me Now," pulling this listener in with a lazy-loping bass line over which Broom lays crisply rendered notes. There's a whiff of the South in the way Broom plays it, as if the humidity in the room has slowed things down, each note fully articulated, and Broom lets the melody linger so you can almost see it. "Evidence" picks up the pace, an urgent, energetic composition that coalesces around Broom's trio mates, bassist Dennis Carroll (with whom Broom has played for 18 years) and his drummer of seven years, Kobie Watins. The recording alternates between relaxed and medium tempo tracks, but the trio is neither predictable nor routine. The sharpest tunes are "In Walked Bud" and the standard, "Lulu's Back in Town." On the former, the trio lays out a hip, soul-jazz groove that sets up a hard-swinging Broom. "Lulu" bounces forward; its foundation provided by bassist Carroll and it scurries along, moved by Broom's deft finger play and Watkins' percussive shadowing.
Broom's passionate tribute is additionally rewarded from fabulous engineering by Josh Richter who captures every nuance of this remarkable trio. The fidelity and clarity is pleasingly vivid and most welcome for a trio this good.