Guitarist, arranger, bandleader
Chicago-based jazz guitarist Bobby Broom mastered his instrument earlier in life than most. At the age of 16, he played with Sonny Rollins at Carnegie Hall and went on to perform with such legends as Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell, Miles Davis, and Charles Ear-land before concentrating on his own solo career. His 2001 releases Modern Man and Stand! garnered Broom the greatest acclaim of his career. On these recordings, he unexpectedly uses pop, rock, and R&B classics as a foundation, re-working tunes by artists like Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, and Sly Stone with a sense of creativity and innovation. “Bobby Broom is one of the most harmonically daring guitarists recording today,” wrote André Avelino in Down Beat. “His style is personal and identifiable, yet with no gimmicks or gadgets—just pure guitar.”
Broom has stated that rediscovering the music he loved growing up, as well as realizing he could express himself as a jazz artist through careful arrangement, led him to tap into popular music. “With this record I’m not trying to make a grandiose statement like ‘these are the new standards,’” he said of Stand! at the Premonition Records website. “I’m simply playing songs that evoke feelings for me from my lifetime and that offer enough melodically and harmonically for me to use as a basis for improvisation and ultimately, communication. I felt these songs 30 years ago in ways that I can still feel when I hear them today. Now, in playing this music I can try to express some of what I felt then and feel now through my interpretation.”
Broom furthermore enjoys reaching a broad range of listeners, including those unfamiliar with jazz. As he commented to Neil lesser for Jazziz magazine: “Personally, I like to have some way of connecting to the audience. I want to play music that can reach the majority of the audience who may not know what’s going on [in a jazz solo].”
Born on January 18, 1961, in New York City, Broom discovered jazz when his father brought home the album Black Talk by keyboardist Charles Earland. He decided to pick up the guitar at eleven years of age. After about a year of folk guitar lessons, Broom began studying at the age of 13 with New York jazz guitarist Jimmy Carter, who introduced the youngster to the styles of George Benson and Wes Montgomery, encouraged him to practice, and helped him overcome nervousness.
Spending his childhood in such a cultural environment as New York also influenced Broom to focus on music. His family lived near a couple of jazz clubs, where Broom’s parents frequently took him to hear and see local artists. When they could not accompany him, Broom visited the venues by himself and watched the musicians perform through the windows. Completely absorbed by jazz by the age of 15, Broom played in a funk-influenced jazz band in high school. At a school talent show, a musician/playwright in the audience named Weldon Irvine approached the group, offering them the opportunity to perform for an off-Broadway production in Brooklyn.
By chance, saxophonist Sonny Rollins’s guitar player attended one of the performances and afterwards approached Broom to come audition for Rollins. Broom went to the rehearsal, and though the guitarist who had invited him was not present, he played with Rollins and his band. Immediately following the session, Rollins asked Broom if he would like to tour with the group. Only 16 at the time, Broom knew that his mother would never allow him to leave school and declined the offer. Rollins said he would call Broom when he returned from touring, and, to Broom’s surprise, Rollins kept that promise, inviting Broom to perform with him and trumpeter Donald Byrd at a concert at Carnegie Hall.
Not long thereafter, Broom graduated from high school and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to attend the Berklee College of Music. He studied at the prestigious school from 1978 until 1979, during which time he met and held jam sessions with saxophonist Bradford Marsalis, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, and saxophonist Donald Harrison, among others.
Upon returning to New York, Broom had the opportunity in 1980 to sit in with influential drummer/bandleader Art Blakey at a jazz club. That night, Blakey asked Broom to join his group, the Jazz Messengers. Broom felt confined playing only pure jazz, however, and only stayed with Blakey for a short time. Subsequently, he began recording and touring with Tom
Born on January 18, 1961, in New York, NY. Education: Attended Berklee College of Music, 1978-79, and Columbia College.
Began playing guitar, age eleven; performed with saxophone legend Sonny Rollins at Carnegie Hall, age 16; played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, 1980; released debut as a leader, Clean Sweep, 1981; recorded and toured with Rollins, 1982-86; played briefly with trumpeter Miles Davis, 1987; played with guitarist Kenny Burrell, keyboardist Charles Earland, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and New Orleans great Dr. John, late 1980s-1990s; released Modern Man and Stand!, 2001.
Addresses: Record company —Premonition Records, website: http://www.premonitionandmusic.com. Management and booking —Exponent Productions, The-rese Caporole, phone: (514) 890-1082, e-mail: [email protected], website: http://www.e-x-p.tv.
Browne, a jazz/funk trumpeter. This stint led to Broom securing a contract with GRP Records, also Browne’s label. For GRP, Broom released in 1981 his first recording as a leader, Clean Sweep.
The following year, Rollins saw Broom’s album and called upon the guitarist again. Broom recorded and toured with Rollins, who he regards as his mentor, from 1982 until 1986. In 1987 Broom joined trumpeter Miles Davis’s group, but he soon realized his style did not align well with the band. Playing just a handful of gigs with Davis, Broom moved on to accept a position with guitarist Kenny Burrell’s Jazz Guitar Band, which also featured Rodney Jones. Burrell, according to Premonition Records, once called Broom “one of the most innovative guitarists I’ve heard in recent times.”
By this time, Broom had also relocated to Chicago, where, prior to working with Burrell for several years, he completed his education at Columbia College, taught music courses at area colleges, and performed around the city. After his stint with Burrell, Broom worked with Charles Earland, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and New Orleans great Dr. John.
Resuming his career as a leader in the 1990s, Broom recorded two albums for the Criss Cross label: No Hype Blues, released in 1995, and Waitin’ and Waitin’, released in 1997. In 2001 Broom returned with two more albums. The first, released in August on Delmark, is entitled Modern Man and features an all-star band—organist Lonnie Smith, baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, and drummer Idris Muhammad. With this set, Broom utilizes the classic organ combo format to bring new life to well-known pop songs. Some highlights include covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Burt Bacharach’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and Eric Clapton’s “Layla.”
Broom’s second album from 2001, Stand!, was released in September on Premonition Records. This recording features his regular trio—drummer Dana Hall and bassist Dennis Carroll—and was recorded in 1999, a year before Modern Man. Like Modern Man, Stand! marries forms of music not generally associated with one another. Here, Broom reworks tunes such as Wonder’s “Come Back As a Flower,” the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” the Mamas and the Papas’ “Monday Monday,” and the title track, a Sly Stone cover.
Both recordings generated rave reviews from critics and fans, and from jazz and pop enthusiasts alike. Because jazz standards were derived from the popular songs of the 1930s and 1940s, many young artists like Broom find it natural to incorporate the music of the 1960s and 1970s into their repertoire. “Why should there be a problem with the integration of seemingly disparate energies as long as the music is good?” he questions, as quoted by Tesser. “If the music is true, then it’s jazz.”
Clean Sweep, Arista/GRP, 1981.
No Hype Blues, Criss Cross, 1995.
Waitin’ and Waitin’, Criss Cross, 1997.
Modern Man, Delmark, 2001.
Stand!, Premonition, 2001.
Boston Phoenix, January 11, 2002.
Chicago Tribune, October 7, 2001; January 2, 2002.
Denver Post, October 14, 2001.
Down Beat, June 1996, p. 64; March 2002, p. 63.
Indianapolis Star, January 26, 2002.
Jazziz, January 2002.
Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2001, p. F71.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, January 11, 2002.
All About Jazz, http://www.allaboutjazz.com (May 15, 2002).
“Bobby Broom,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 15, 2002).
“Bobby Broom,” Exponent Productions, http://www.e-x-p.tv (May 15, 2002).
“Bobby Broom,” Premonition Records, http://www.premonitionandmusic.com/html/bbroom/bbroom.html (May 15, 2002).
“Bobby Broom: Stand! ” Jazz Institute of Chicago, http://www.jazzinstituteofchicago.org/jazzgram/cdreviews/jan2002.asp (May 15, 2002).
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