Bobby Broom: Building a Legacy

R.J. DeLuke By

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"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.

Bobby Broom The Way I Play"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.

"I learned early on from Jackie McLean that a person like me is valuable in jazz academia because of my experience, because of my knowledge and level of education, being a literate and studied musician ... I had no experience as a teacher when I got that first call. I was 20-something, early 20s. I didn't know what to say or do. [McLean] said, 'Just be yourself. Talk to the kids. They are aspiring to do what you're doing right now.' So that is something that made sense to me. I think it still applies."

So Broom keeps recording, teaching, studying. His individual and luscious guitar sound gains favor and influence among players and fans. "Looking at the big picture, things are going good. I feel pretty good now, having looked back at the last 10 years and having amassed a bit of a body of a work that I felt was lacking when I moved away in the mid '80s. I changed the course of my career, but that was the same time as the emergence of the Young Lions of the '80s. Wynton and Branford and Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison and all of that. They had an association with Art Blakey. So I felt if I had done the gig with Blakey and stayed around New York, maybe I'd be recording with those guys or associated more with those guys ... As a result I felt under-recorded, underrepresented as far as my recorded output. Although I'd made records as a sideman with various people.

"In the last decade, in addition to all of that I felt as a player I'd reached a point where I felt confident about my voice and that I was ready to establish that. Some of us late bloomers ... finding my sound and honing it and being ready to present it ... I just felt it hadn't been documented. Certainly not as a leader. As a sideman, you're a sideman and it's not your presentation. You're going to sound like yourself, hopefully, but you're it's not your show. I just felt it was time to do that. So I feel OK about what's happened as far as that's concerned."

He's got other projects to be considered, including possibly getting together with bassist Victor Bailey, and old friend going back to Berklee College of Music, and drummer Poogie Bell, a longtime member of Marcus Miller's band.

"Aside from that, I'm looking forward to greater opportunity for live performances with both of my groups. I think I've documented and said what I need to say in terms of presenting myself as a guitarist and bandleader. And a musician that has some vision. I feel I'm ready to go out and establish that more in the realm of live performance. Sometimes I feel like I'm operating on my own steam, but apparently that's enough because the response that I get keeps me going," he says, adding as he laughs softly, "Maybe it's just me."

Selected Discography

Deep Blue Organ Trio, Wonderful! (Origin, 2011)

Bobby Broom, Plays for Monk (Origin, 2009)

Bobby Broom, The Way I Play (Origin, 2008)

Deep Blue Organ Trio, Folk Music (Origin, 2007)

Bobby Broom, Song and Dance (Origin, 2007)

Sonny Rollins, Sonny Please (Doxy, 2006)

Deep Blue Organ Trio, Goin' To Town: Live at the Green Mill (Delmark, 2006)

Deep Blue Organ Trio, Deep Blue Bruise (Delmark, 2004)

Bobby Broom, Modern Man (Delmark, 2001)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Mark Sheldon, Courtesy of Bobby Broom

Page 2: Courtesy of Jazz Music Archives

Pages 3, 4: Courtesy of Bobby Broom

Page 5: Jose Horn

Page 6: Mark Ladenson
About Bobby Broom
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