Delving Into the Deep Blue
He was beginning to establish himself as a young jazz musician and developing a career that had a great deal of potential. But then Broom made the decision to move from New York to Chicago, a unique journey that perhaps found him passing some fellow musicians traveling in the opposite direction. "Yeah, that's true. What musician do you know that moves from New York to another place? Well, a lot of people do that, once they are successful. But I did it when it was very early on in the development of my career. I know that things would have been much different had I stayed in New York. It wasn't a sound decision, but it was the one that I made. It was what I wanted to do."
So what made Broom leave New York? "Of course, it was part of a relationship. But it was a combination of things. I got a record deal shortly after dropping out of school, but even still, there was a lot of confusion on my part as to what was happening to me. I knew nothing about the business. I didn't have any kind of proper or adequate representation. So there was a lot of angst and immaturity surrounding the record business for me and the difficulties that had occurred.
"And there was kind of a lull in the performing aspect of my career. As a sideman, you can just pick up gigs, get paid and go home. As you become a leader and have the recording artist title, things change. People look at you a little differently bit; you look at yourself a little bit differently. At that point, taking a $50 gig seems very questionable. So I just had a lot of things to sort out. I was like, 'Man, I need to go back to school.' I started looking at programs and I found one in Chicago, at Columbia College. But I quickly found out that was not the educational move that I needed to make because I did not plan to sit in an office or to be working in that way."
Though the relationship ended, Bobby remains in Chicago. "For quite a while, it was very, very difficult for me to come to terms with the decision that I made leaving New York and leaving the position that I think I would have assumed. There weren't many young African American jazz guitar players there at that time, in the early eighties. That was right at the time when the Young Lions phenomenon with Wynton and his brother [saxophonist Branford], [trumpeter] Terence Blanchard, [saxophonist] Donald Harrisonall these guys that I knew. I thought, 'Man I left that? I could have recorded more and been associated with those guys more.' But who knows? That may or may not have been true, but that's what I had felt."
Whether destiny or luck, Chicago is where Broom came to meet his musical brothers, Foreman and Rockingham. Rockingham recalls, "We were playing in Chicago and Bobby was playing around the corner. Bobby was playing at the Underground Wonderbar and Chris and I were playing at the Backroom. Bobby would come in and listen to us and we would come and listen to him. He said, 'Man, I can do that organ thing, too.' We just started playing together and we started developing and developing and developing. Then we got a steady job at the Cotton Club every week. And we decided we should try to start something. Then we had a steady job at the Green Mill. We thought we had something that people would like to hear.
"The relationship, the love for each other, developed also, which made the music develop as well. We know each other. We talk about each other's problems. We know what we are going to do musically without discussing certain things. You know that you are going to have bad nights, because you are human, but we really care about each other. And that makes it easier to play together because we care about each other."
Rockingham's own musical journey began with his father, organist David Rockingham. "My dad was a professional musician; his band was the David Rockingham Trio. He would go out on the road and travel and that's what he did. I feel so blessed to have a father that was in the music business. And my father retired from the music business and handed it over to me, and that's when I met Chris.
"My dad also had a career in law enforcement, and that's what my brother did. My brother tried to play, but it was a lost cause! But then he followed my dad's footsteps into law enforcement, so it was a unique situation.
"My dad is very proud of me, but I am very proud of him, as well. Even today, when I go out on the road, people will say, 'Rockingham, Rockingham, are you any relation to Dave Rockingham?' I say, 'Yeah, that's my dad.' It makes me feel good."
Rockingham recalls being drawn to the drums as early as three or four years old. "I remember I used to sit in his rehearsals and play oatmeal boxes and pots and pans. I don't know why I did it; I was just called to do that. I would play different things that I could make sound like the drums. I would listen to the drummers in his band and listen to their rehearsals."