Bobby Broom: Building a Legacy
He adds, "Fortunately, that didn't happen. And I say that for personal reasons. After Clean Sweep was when Sonny Rollins called, when I got a call from Jackie McLean about teaching. Although Sonny wasn't playing strictly straight-ahead music at that time either. Still, I was getting exposed to the life of jazz, with one of the most successful jazz musicians working at that time. I'm getting exposed to that kind of life and to the music of this historic figure. So I'm getting a lesson in jazz as a working musician, which was what I was attracted to in the first place. Thank goodness for me that this happened and it didn't get limited to this one way of doing it. Fortunately for me I wasn't bound by the recording contract that I had and trying to become a star in this way. I would have loved it if it happened, I guess, but it didn't happen in that way. It seems that I was pulled in the direction that I was supposed to go."
That career included work with some jazz stalwarts. But a funny thing happened when he was with Kenny Burrell's Jazz Guitar Band. "That was 1986 and 87. I was living in Chicago at the time. I was probably already being written off by some. 'There goes another one moving out of town [NYC]. What the heck is he doing?' But I was continuing to practice and play. I was continuing to travel on the road internationally and doing what I had been doing. So it was OK, relative to being a working musician." It became known that Miles Davis was interested.
"The funny thing about the Miles band ... when I was living in New York in the early '80s there was a club called 55 Grand Street. Everybody used to hang out there. Mike Stern had an apartment with his wife upstairs. There was music every night and all the musicians were there. Some were hanging out every night. Mike Stern, Hiram Bullock. Marcus Miller from time to time. Victor Bailey. A bunch of us. So I was hearing at that time, 'You're on line for Miles' gig.' I'm going, 'Miles' gig? I don't play like that. With distortion. How am I going to play in Miles' band?' I blew it off. Although it would be really cool, it didn't make sense to me, even at that time.
"Five years later, I'm living in Chicago and Miles has a whole new band. Everybody in his band is from Chicago. Darryl Jones on bass, Bobby Irving on keyboards, Miles' nephew, Vince Wilburn, on drums. I get a call from somebody saying that Miles wants to hear me play and to put a tape together. So I did. I did my best distorted guitar impersonation," he says, recalling the matter with a chuckle. "Knowing what Miles wanted to hear, I went for that. He called me to come to New York to rehearse.
"At the same time, I just got finished playing on two records, Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note) with Kenny Burrell and the Jazz Guitar Band, with an upright bass, Kenny Washington on drums ... and I'm at home making a tape for Miles with distorted guitar. That doesn't even make sense to me now. But I did it because it as a chance to play with Miles. I wasn't going to pass that up.
"What I should have done is just play my best guitar, period. I went to New York, did some gigs with [Miles]. I actually had to find a sub for one of the gigs because I had agreed to do a gig with Kenny. It was our first live performance after the record. It was a significant thing. Playing with Kenny Burrell, being chosen as one of the young guitarists he was presenting in this new group on Blue Note Records. So I had to call Miles to tell him I had to get a sub; I needed to make this gig. I'm 26 years old. That's pretty funny. But I did it. I thought that was the end of that. But he had me do a few more gigs. I was surprised by that. But obviously, it was not a comfortable fit for either one of us. My true sound was the one that I played with Kenny Burrell and the Jazz Guitar Band. That was the real me."
Broom didn't stop his formal music education, and between his hard work as a performer and recording musician he earned a bachelor's degree in 1986. He also went back to school and got his master's in 2005. Education is important to him.
"I wanted to honor the commitment that I made to my career in jazz education," he explains. "At that point, I had devoted 10-12 years of my life to teaching at the college level. I felt it was something I wanted to do to honor that. So I went back and got a master's in jazz pedagogy. Then Sonny called again and asked me about working. That was right at the tail end of my studies. So I was able to work it out.