Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bobby Broom: Upper West Side Story

I am constantly being made aware of the major holes in my knowledge: I'm pretty ignorant about opera, I haven't seen "Predator", and I couldn't explain the Bosnian War if you offered me a million dollars. And also  I've decided that I'm not as up on the great jazz guitarists as I should be. I've only recently been digging Charlie Christian, and I saw Pat Martino live two summers ago. I know a little about Wes Montgomery, Metheny, Scofield, Holdsworth, Grant Green, George Benson, Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, Russell Malone, Kevin Eubanks, Emily Remler, Stanley Jordan, Joe Pass, just off the top of my head. I've played in the past with with David Gilmore, Tom Guarna, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Adam Rogers, Marvin Sewell, David Fiuczynski, Jerome Harris, Robben Ford, Cheryl Bailey, Paul Bollenback, Nathan Page, Oz Noy, Sebastian Noelle, Mark Whitfield,  just to name a few(not to leave out Portland's Dan Balmer and J.B. Butler). That's why I feel like I should have been more familiar with the outstanding guitarist Bobby Broom. His new CD, " Upper West Side Story", is a real listening pleasure.

Bobby Broom
Broom is clearly comfortable in the trio setting. He knows when to fill it up with chords and knows how to make solo lines speak authoritatively. His sound is sans effect pedals, but it doesn't sound old fashioned; it's almost a blues guitar sound, yet Broom plays with a lot of contemporary creativity. The CD is an impressive set of original compositions which showcase Broom and his trio in various states of intensity.

Dennis Carrol
"D's Blues" is a bold opening; the trio hits an E minor 7 chord, embellished by bassist Dennis Carroll, before he and drummer Kobie Watkins set up a grooving swing latin feel. Broom states a soulful blues theme before launching into a soaring display of inspiration. Broom seems to have a million musical ideas, one hipper than the next. At times, there's a little reminiscence of Kevin Eubanks' music, especially when drummer Watkins plays flurries of notes which make me wonder if he's influenced by Marvin "Smitty" Smith (one of the great drummers in jazz who nobody seems to heard of since he moved to L.A. to play on the Tonight Show.)

Kobie Watkins
The title track, "Upper West Side Story", is a cool straight eighth vehicle; lots of power chords and open spaces, filled nicely by drummer Watkins. "After Words" is a nice jazz waltz, where we get to hear a nice yet brief solo by bassist Carroll. "Major Minor Mishap" has a african 6/8 feel at first, but then switches into a more up tempo vibe. It has a very playful feeling, throughout. This track is one of three which features another fine drummer, Makaya McCraven. Broom again seems to have chops for days and never lets up.

It was nice to see that somebody wrote a tune for the late, great bassist Charles Fambrough. "Fambroscious(for Fambrough)" is an uptempo burnout tune. I like the approach of the trio in the beginning of the solos, which is keeping the intensity without being uptight - it's not like "HELP, WE ARE PLAYING FAST!" Especially bassist Carroll nods to Jimmy Garrison with a more open feel.

Makaya McCraven
I hope guitar players won't think this is strange when I say I enjoy this record as much as I would a piano trio record. I'm only trying to say that Bobby Broom's new project is more than just a guitar trio record. It's a really intriguing collection of tunes and excellent performances. "Upper West Side Story" is on itunes.


  1. Bobby is one of the greatest living guitarists and, in my opinion, will be even more appreciated as the years go by. I spent all of my college years going to see him in Chicago as much as possible. Since moving to NYC last year, I've missed hearing him play a lot. Thanks for reviewing an under-appreciated artist!

  2. I have loved Bobby since I first heard him on Sunny Rollins - No Problem (1982).
    And I have met and spoken with Bobby a few times.

    Yes, Bobby is the greatest.
    No, if he has been 'discovered in 30 years, he probably will never received what he is due.

    Welcome to America.


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