Bobby Broom: Building a Legacy
"We went to a club and Al Haig was playing with his trio. I said, 'He played with Charlie Parker. I know who that is.' So Weldon approaches Al, talks to him a little bit and came back and said, 'He says it's cool for you to play.' I was, like, 'Cool.' No reservation. I get up and we played. Afterward, Al said, 'I do this gig every week at a club on the upper East Side called Gregory's. Whenever you want, come by and play.' I was there three or four nights a week. That kind of opportunity is amazing. A learning opportunity and everything else ... Now I'm playing with somebody that played with Charlie Parker, who I idolized. That's amazing. And I'm learning this music. And this guy thinks it's OK for me to do that.
Deep Blue Organ Trio, from left: Greg Rockingham, Chris Foreman, Bobby Broom
"I didn't think I sounded good. I didn't judge too much. I didn't think I sounded bad. I didn't judge it in that way. The whole idea was to keep getting better. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do that."
Another momentous time in high school was his encounter with the great Sonny Rollins. He was approached by Aurell Ray, Rollins' guitarist at the time, who arranged for Broom to participate in a rehearsal with Rollins, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Eddie Moore. Rollins offered to take Broom on tour with the band. Broom declined the offer, explaining that he was still a senior in high school. But Broom found himself playing a concert at Carnegie Hall in 1977 with Rollins, Cranshaw, Moore, Ray, pianist Mike Nock, and trumpeter Donald Byrd.
"When I played that concert with him, it was right around my 16th birthday. I was a kid," recounts Broom. "When I look back at some of those situations, playing with Sonny Rollins and all of that, I can't really look at it objectively. Even though I'm looking at it subjectively, I have to try to see it in the way I saw it then. Because seeing it from my perspective now, I'm going, 'How could I have done that? I couldn't even play.' But when I step back, I say it wasn't about how good I was, it was about the potential that I had. It was about the earnestness that I had. It was about the innocence and how enthused I was. I'm sure these guys could tell that. I'm sure I had enough together that indicated that and it probably excited them too, in a way, I would imagine. I know how I feel when I hear a kid now that can play a little bit."
Broom rejoined Rollins in 2005 and can be heard on the albums No Problem (Milestone, 1981), Reel Life (Milestone, 1983), Sonny, Please (Doxy, 2006), and Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy, 2008).
"What can I say about that, other than I'm glad I got the opportunity to do more of it? To have that experience of playing with him in his band and then go on to do a lot of other thingsto have a career in music then revisit that [Rollins] situation 25 years later. Having formed my ideas about music, being an educator and espousing certain ideas and philosophies about playing and about jazz and what it's all about. I know my ideas come directly from my experiences with these kinds of people and with this music."
Broom also had the opportunity to join Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, something no other guitarist had done. He had been sitting in with the band, along with young trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in New York. The drummer invited both to his circle. Marsalis went. Broom went with a younger band led by trumpeter Tom Browne. That move, however, started Broom's recording career.
"I don't know what would have happened had I made the other decision [to join Blakey], but I know what happened by going on and playing with Tom Browne," the guitarist says. That included meeting and playing with the likes of Omar Hakim, Marcus Miller, and Bernard Wright. "Things could have been a lot different, but they didn't happen in a straight line. Tom Browne and that whole crew of musicians were not traditionalists. We were definitely jazz musicians. We studied jazz, we listened to jazz, we loved jazz and could play jazz. But we were interested in a lot of different things.
"The music that we were making was kind of along the lines of the music I heard that attracted me to jazz in the first place. Herbie Hancock Headhunters and Grover Washington Jr. fusion. I don't mean jazz/rock fusion from the '70s. I mean a fusion of styles that included black musicR&B, funk, soul and jazz. It was kind of a precursor to what became known as Smooth Jazz. We weren't thinking of any of that. We were just making music. We had the opportunity to record. We were playing on each other's records. That's what was happening.; When I think about it, if I had continued along that track, making records like Clean Sweep (Arista, 1981) for six more years, and Smooth Jazz had been created and I had continued on, maybe I would have been one of the Smooth Jazz guitar legends."