Bobby Broom – Upper West Side Story – ORIGIN 82617, 59:59 [5/15/2012] ****1/2:
(Bobby Broom – guitar; Dennis Carroll – bass; Kobie Watkins & Makaya McCraven – drums)
Unlike many jazz artists, Bobby Broom made a name for himself quickly. At the age of sixteen, he auditioned and was invited to tour with Sonny Rollins. His mother interceded and Broom attended Berklee School of Music in Boston instead. There he played with Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison. After returning to New York, he reunited with Rollins, and this time toured extensively (including Carnegie Hall). He also worked with Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Kenny Burrell.
Soon Broom relocated to Chicago and became a staple on the local jazz scene. He began to record albums as a leader. Among his repertoire were jazzy arrangements of popular music including Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, Burt Bacharach’s “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” and Eric Clapton’s “Layla”. This album (Modern Man) featured high caliber players including Dr. Lonnie Smith, Idris Muhammed and Ronnie Cuber. He recorded and performed with his own trio and with the Deep Blue Organ Trio.
The latest release, Upper West Side Story, is homage to his New York jazz roots. Consisting of nine original compositions, the album represents Broom’s evolution as a jazz artist from New York. Featuring his trio, the opening track, “D’s Blues,” kicks off with a freewheeling bass riff (Dennis Carroll) that leads into a straight-ahead jam. Broom’s guitar lines are crisp and fluid like George Benson or Wes Montgomery. His unique blend of traditional jazz with soulful overtones is engaging and is propelled by the steady hand of drummer Kobie Watkins. Shifting to an improvisational sweeping articulation, the title cut is graced with blistering runs on guitar. Combining chords and notation, the latin-infused framework has the trio in creative lockstep. The intensity ebbs and flows with various crescendos and transitions.
Broom and the trio have an intuitive knack for rolling grooves. “Minor Major Mishap” (an intriguing piece that delves into both minor and major chord variations) unfolds with a funky swagger, and the guitar play swings with spirited runs and repeat hooks. This trio’s chemistry (even with a different drummer, Makaya McCraven) is persuasive and demonstrates rhythmic versatility. For devotees of hot licks, the tribute to bassist Charles Fambrough (“Fambroscious”) is explosive with tempo brakes and intriguing harmonics. Whether the group is executing up tempo cadence (“Call Me A Cab”) or graceful waltz time arrangements (“After Words”), the music is agile and very listenable. Broom has matured as a composer. The final song, “When The Falling Leaves…” is an atmospheric ballad that is superb in its lyrical nuances.
Upper West Side Story is a stellar addition to a contemporary jazz guitarist’s prominence.
TrackList: D’s Blues; Upper West Side Story; After Words; Minor Major Mishap; Lazy Sundays; Fambroscious (For Fambrough); Father; Call Me A Cab; When The Falling Leaves…
A Texas singer-songwriter’s legend lives on with this journey of personal discovery and anecdotal cleverness.