Guitarist Bobby Broom was a young teenager when he first heard Thelonious Monk’s piano playing. He had a copy of Bird and Diz, the classic 1950 album on which Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were joined by Monk, Curly Russell and Buddy Rich. Within a few years, while attending New York City’s fabled High School of Music and Art during the mid-’70s, Broom was playing Monk compositions.
“His classic tunes, like ‘Straight, No Chaser,’ ‘Well, You Needn’t,’ and ”Round Midnight’ are required,” Broom says. “There are about five or six of them that you must play. They’re part of the jazz canon. Aside from that, I adore both his music and personal style. He is such an important figure in jazz across the board, as a player, a composer and a soloist.”
Released by Origin Records on June 16, Bobby Broom Plays for Monk features the guitarist performing eight Monk compositions, along with two standards-Harry Warren’s “Lulu’s Back in Town” and Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”-that were part of Monk’s repertoire. The guitarist is joined by Dennis Carroll, his bassist for the past 18 years, and by Kobie Watkins, his drummer for the past seven.
“I was trying to maintain the essence and the spirit of the music and do so without replicating idiosyncrasies of his playing or being too overly concerned with making chord voicings sound exactly like he did,” Broom says of the CD. “I’m more interested in capturing the spirit of the music and doing it in the spirit that I and my musicians bring to it. I think we all share a similar jazz perspective with Monk. So that was the most important thing to me-finding a way to convey a natural common ground.”
Plays for Monk is the third of a trilogy of Origin recordings the Chicago-based guitarist has made with his adventuresome trio. Song and Dance (2007) emphasized pop tunes Broom grew up with as well as several his original compositions, while The Way I Play (2008) drew from jazz standards and American songbook classics. Of the latter album, Joe Woodard wrote in JAZZIZ, “The mighty fire of Broom’s playing … seems to have grown hotter and deeper in recent seasons.” On his own website, Pat Metheny called The Way I Play “one of the best guitar trio records ever.”
Broom has another longstanding trio affiliation in the Deep Blue Organ Trio, which includes organist Chris Foreman and drummer Greg Rockingham. The group has recorded three albums (and one DVD), and plans to record a fourth disc either in the late summer or early fall for the Origin imprint.
A longtime member of Sonny Rollins’ band, Broom continues to travel the world with the saxophonist, which Broom calls “the ultimate jazz experience.” But on his own the guitarist continues to carve out his own compelling musical path, on which “Plays for Monk” is the latest milestone.
The Bobby Broom Trio will be at Birdland in New York City on August 18; the Redmoor in Cincinnati on August 20; and the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis on August 21.