Bobby Broom

Upper West Side Story


MUSIC REVIEW BY Dan Forte, Vintage Guitar Magazine


As in nearly all things, there are some exceptions (for instance, child prodigy Julain Lage, who's now a grown-up veteran at 24), but it seems like players still thought of as "young guns" of jazz guitar, whose rise began several years after the previous clutch of players to carry that mantel, are what used to be considered middle-aged--and in some cases nearly as old as the "generation" that preceded them. After standard-bearers Kenny Burrell and Jim Hall, both octogenarians, and young pup George Benson, a mere 69, players like Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, and Martin Taylor (now in their mid/late 50s) carried the torch. If it seems like a longer lapse before Russell Malone (48), Mark Whitfield (45), and Anthony Wilson (43) came along, it's probably because those listed before them began prolific recording careers when they were very young.

Bobby Broom is typically lumped in with this latter group, although, at 51, he trails Taylor (not quite 56) by only a few years. This may be due in part to the more urban roots of Broom, Malone, et. al., as opposed to the small-town, eclectic, and European bents of their aforementioned predecessors.

Following his ambitious and impressive Bobby Broom Plays for Monk (as in Thelonious), the guitarist tackles perhaps an even more daunting task. Known for his fascinating jazz arrangements of pop hits, this is Broom's first collection of all-original tunes. Though he's headquartered out of Chicago since '84, he looked to Harlem for inspiration in this "ode to where I'm from."

As accomplished as Broom's bassist (Dennis Carroll) and drummer (Kobie Watkins, with Makaya McCraven on three cuts) are, playing jazz guitar in a trio format, being the only melodic or chordal instrument, is almost as demanding as going it alone (solo guitarists typically don't launch into extended single-note solos). But the format affords the leader more freedom, as demonstrated on "D's Blues." After stating a simple but memorable head, Broom's entrancing solo slips in and out of the chord structure, keeping you on your toes without being jarring or sounding "off."

Broom's composing, ranging from quirky ("Minor Major Mishap") to sweet and melodic ("Father"), is an equally strong selling point. On Wonderful!, with his other venture, the Deep Blue Organ Trio, songwriting is left to Stevie Wonder, as Broom, organist Chris Freeman, and drummer Greg Rockingham interpret such classics as "My Cheri Amour," "If You Really Love Me," and "Tell Me Something Good." After some jagged lines kick off his solo on "As," Broom digs in, working and reworking every possibility of a speedy note cluster. Though the organ states the melody on most numbers, Broom takes charge on "You've Got It Bad Girl," with some tasty octave lines.

On both CDs, the curvaceous archtop Broom plays is a Jazzica, from Germany's Hofner company. Besides being a perfect ergonomic fit, he says he loves the model's "punchiness" across the whole range of the instrument and its "graininess or grittiness," as well as its woody, acoustic quality. His solid-state Henrikson Convertible amp has five-band EQ in place of traditional tone controls, the better to adjust the balance of volume throughout the guitar's range, according to Bobby, without affecting its natural tone.

From 1982 to '87, then 2005 to /10, Broom was guitarist with saxophonist Sonny Rollins. That's an amazing endorsement, but Broom understandably didn't want to bey typecast as a career sideman, particularly not for one employer, even if it was with one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. His own trio and the Deep Blue Organ Trio keep him busy enough, but who knows what else might pop up?





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