The business of America is business, and part of that business as far as music is concerned is the tribute album. The ?tribute? concept can give prospective listeners a handle on the artist and/or a particular album?sometimes the concept can be a little shaky (a performer interpreting the songs interpreted by another interpreter, for example) or can be rock-solid and spot-on. Take guitarist Bobby Broom?his previous platter Wonderful
, under the flag of the Deep Blue Organ Trio, was a tribute to the songs of Stevie Wonder and it was aces back-to-back. His latest Upper West Side Story
is a homage to his home town of NYC, and it too holds a good set of cards.
The Chicago-based Broom clearly knows: If you?re going to do a tribute-type set, do it up right, and he does. West
is Broom?s first album of all-original material, an ?ode? (that?s what he calls it) to that mythic Big Apple. Broom is an able offspring of Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell, combining the clean articulation and warmth of the former with the thick, bluesy burred tone of the latter, delivered with what this writer can only call amiable thorniness. Whereas Wonderful
was hearty, tangy soul-jazz, West
is crackling, very modern post-bop (albeit with nary a trace of fusion or free.) The opener ?D?s Blues? is something of a mid-tempo cooker, swinging mightily while holding something in reserve and it?s peppered with some stark and brief dissonances. The title track is a brightly surging bit of hard bop with plenty of bluesy twang and some shifting rhythm work that wouldn?t be out of place on an Ornette Coleman album. Broom?s playing has a restless, questing quality to it without seeming at all tentative. That vibe continues on the furtive semi-ballad ?After Words,? Broom?s six-strings glistening in the urban moonlight. Throughout, bassist Dennis Carroll is solidly supportive and self-effacing.
?Minor Major Mishap? is a catchy tune just crying for radio play, as it?s got this insistent, vaguely ?All Blues?-like melodic hook but delivered with some swagger ? drummer Makaya McCraven rumbles and seethes like a storm brewing, Broom?s ebullient guitar providing sunny counterpoint. ?Lazy Sundays? captures the speedy pace of NYC on an allegedly ?leisurely? day. The peppy, cyclic ?Call Me a Cab? conveys the sometimes giddy, sometime manic urgency of traveling in Manhattan.
Broom doesn?t present a sunny, idealized portrait of the city nor is it a harrowing expose of its dark side ? he uses NYC as inspiration for some reflective and inspired compositions (not simply frameworks for solos) and vibrant, spunky soloing. Broom should record what he writes more often.