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Bobby Broom: Building a Legacy

By Published: April 23, 2012
"It's modern from my perspective," says Broom. "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're just trying to make music and find material that is meaningful to us and listeners like us. In that way, it is current and relevant."

Meanwhile, Broom's other trio, with Dennis Carroll on bass and Kobie Watkins
Kobie Watkins
Kobie Watkins
on drums, is on a break. The trio also has its own identity when it comes to playing anything from Monk to standards—even rock and pop favorites, as they did on Song and Dance (Origin, 2007). " In my twenty years of playing with Bobby, I've always felt that his style of playing melds the feelings of all-American blues with an urban hip soulfulness that really speaks to the progression of jazz," Carroll has said of the guitarist. That feeling on guitar spreads through the entire trio. The band did a recording prior to deciding on the hiatus, and that could appear in 2012. And it has a new twist: original tunes, dubbed Upper West Side Story (Origin).

"I've been recording quite a bit now since 2000. I've made nine or 10 records. That's about one a year. It's a task to come up with 'What am I going to do next?' and have it be a natural choice as much as possible. I try not to think about it too much and belabor that part of the process. I've been holding off on the idea of recording a lot of original material. Although I do write, I felt like I wanted to establish my voice on the guitar for listeners. I wanted listeners to know who I was. I didn't feel that presenting a whole program of original material was the thing to do to help establish that. I wanted to give people something they were a bit more familiar with. Something they might gravitate toward. Something to meet them halfway, familiarize myself with the listener in that way."

"The group sound has been documented and recognized to some degree, as well as my own playing and sound. So I feel comfortable in doing that. That's what the new trio record is. All-original material."

So he combines performing, and now writing, with his diligent work as an educator. That's a well-rounded career in which Broom can influence musicians on multiple levels.

As a youngster starting out on guitar, jazz didn't mean much. But through a teacher, Jimmy Carter, he became acquainted with jazz and about jazz and saw the music in a different light. "Eventually it all made sense. I started hearing music on the radio in my natural environment that was associated with jazz. Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
was popular. Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
1943 - 1999
These guys were having these hits on radio. It was music I related to and that I liked. There was improvisation. I thought, 'If this is jazz, then I like jazz.' That's when the connection was made."

Broom attended the former High School of Music and Art (now LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts) and music became serious work, something Broom ate up at a fast pace.

Sonny Rollins Road Shows Vol. 1"I think I was enamored with this music. I had this fervor about wanting to be involved in it. I was not ashamed to play. That's one thing I learned from Jimmy Carter—learning by doing. A large part of our lessons consisted of just us playing together. He would write a chart the week before, I would learn it, then we could come together and play. That developed over the course of a few years. After a while, I'm kind of familiar with the performance process through him. He did theory with me, but it was also a mentoring situation. So I didn't have any fear. I was naive. I didn't have any fear about not sounding good. I didn't have a conscience about it yet. I was more concerned with being involved and learning from the situation that I was in."

The arts high school gave Broom more structure, which he knew he needed. "I went there in the 10th grade and there I met quite a few young people that were of like mind. That's a great environment to learn, grow, discover new things and reinforce what it is you're trying to do as a student. That was a really good move for me."

In addition to playing with some jazz greats at a young age, because he had no fear, Broom also landed in a musical written by another mentor, pianist and playwright Weldon Irvine, who was Nina Simone's musical director and organist. He wrote the lyric to Simone's hit, "Young, Gifted and Black." In addition, he wrote a musical, "Young, Gifted and Broke" for a group of teenagers. It was performed at the Billie Holiday Theatre with Broom among the participants.

"The role was a teenage jazz musician. We did a nine-month run at the Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
Theater in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I was a senior in high school, so 16 years old. After the play one night, he said, 'Call your mom and tell her we're going to go out. I'm going to take you out to sit in.' I said, 'What's that?'" recalls Broom fondly.

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