By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Upper West Side Story
Guitarist Bobby Broom is a relatively late-comer to the jazz genre that began in the early 1940s and flourished through the next four decades. He wasn’t born until the early ’60s, but that was early enough for him to play with many of the giants who reigned during that period. While still in high school, he performed with pianist Al Haig, tenor sax icon Sonny Rollins and trumpeter Donald Byrd.
Later in his career, Broom gigged with Max Roach, Art Blakey, Ramsey Lewis, Ron Carter and others. These experiences not only had a significant effect on his style as a musician, but influenced him to become an educator.
His schooling was extensive; in New York City he attended the High School of Music, the Berklee School of Music and Long Island University. As an educator, he has taught/lectured at a dozen prestigious colleges and universities nationwide.
Broom’s relationship with Sonny Rollins — who remains active at age 82 — occupied two periods; they played and recorded together in the early 1980s, then again in the mid-2000s. Broom was a sideman with at least a dozen groups from the ’80s onward, and has released an equal number of albums as a leader. He fronts both a guitar/bass/drums trio and the Deep Blue Organ Trio.
While his early years were spent in New York, he relocated to Chicago in the 1980s; he now works and tours out of that location. This album relates to the Big Apple area where he spent much of his childhood. All the compositions are by Broom; he’s accompanied by bassist Dennis Carroll and drummers Kobie Watkins and Makaya McCraven, who split duties on the nine tracks.
Broom is a blues/bop/funk/soul-oriented guitarist, whose middle-name is “swing”; he’s a master of his instrument. Other guitarists, and lovers of that instrument, will thoroughly enjoy this album, but there’s a caveat: All the melodic lines and solos are done by Broom. There’s no piano, or other horn, to give variation. The average jazz fan may prefer to use the “shuttle-play” mode with some other albums in the mix; close to an hour of nothing but guitar might be a little too much for some.
But for the rest of us ... sit back and luxuriate in the sound that is Bobby Broom.