In a career spanning more than four decades, one thing in the career of Jazz guitarist Bobby Broom has been a constant: Nothing is constant.
Reinvention, reflection, and introspection are the engine of a sound that, for more than four-decades, has brought us fresh originals and amazing takes on the traditions and standards.
Today, Broom calls Chicago home, but his journey began in Harlem, playing professional gigs with Charlie Parker pianist Al Haig in his mid teens while attending the LaGuardia High School of Music & Performing Arts, the “Fame” school.
Broom was born in Harlem in 1961. He was raised on New York City’s Upper West Side. He picked up a four string guitar when he was in elementary school, but it found its way into the closet. At age 12, though Bobby became seized with the idea of playing guitar, and began studying seriously, taking lessons, at first, in folk music.
At 13, he began studies with jazz guitarist Jimmy Carter in Harlem, where he took weekly lessons for the next two years.
Broom attended the Laguardia High School of Music and Performing Arts, where he played in the jazz ensemble and received an award for Outstanding Jazz Improvisation during his senior year. Broom began his career while still in high school, performing at New York clubs. By the time that he was 14, he was good enough that he was gigging professionally with with Charlie Parker pianists, Haig, and Walter Bishop Junior. In 1977, at age 15, he played at Carnegie Hall in a concert with Sonny Rollins and Donald Byrd.
Bobby went to the Berklee School of Music from 1978–79, then returned to New York to pursue his career while attending Long Island University. He began working in New York as guitarist for Dave Grusin, Hugh Masekela and Tom Browne. He was hired by Art Blakey to join The Jazz Messengers, but instead went solo, taking a recording contract with GRP Records. He joined Sonny Rollins band, and was their go-to guitarist for many years.
In the 1980s, Broom relocated to Chicago. There he formed The Bobby Broom Trio in 1990, the Deep Blue Organ Trio in 1999, and The Bobby Broom Organi-Sation in 2014. He has toured with the Organ trios, opening for Steely Dan across North America.
Bobby’s childhood heroes include Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Pat Martino. He has worked with Art Blakey, Max Roach, Stanley Turrentine, Kenny Garrett, Miles Davis, Lonnie Smith, Charles Earland, Dr. John, Kenny Burrell, Ron Blake & Eric Alexander, Ron Carter, and Ramsey Lewis, to name a few.
Among Bobby Broom’s recordings as a leader is his trio’s 2001 release, Stand!, a recording of interpretations of 60s and 70s pop and soul classics which received praise for staying true to the creative demands of authentic modern jazz. Jambands Online magazine said: “Stand! ‘s theme works well for Broom — it adds accessibility to the set without getting in the way of documenting a skilled trio in its natural element.”
In 2009, he recorded “Bobby Broom Plays Monk” with its referential cover shot of the red wagon Monk used for the album Monk’s Music. Broom’s album was both critically well received and embraced by fans and established Broom as a thoughtful and innovative interpreter of some of the most difficult music to master jazz.
Broom’s first release of exclusively original compositions was “Upper West Side Story” in 2012. The album reached No. 1. on the College Music Journal jazz chart and was in the Jazz Week and Down Beat Top Albums of 2012.
“I purposely waited to make a record of all originals,” Broom said. “I feel that can be sort of a run-of-the-mill thing to do – that everyone is doing it. But, you know, I’ve been out here 30 years now and people need to know who I am beyond my guitar sound and style. This album reveals more of me.”
His album, “My Shining Hour,” (2014) is an one of his best moments of reinvention, breathing all kinds of fresh perspectives into the standards of the venerable American Songbook.
Nate Chinen of the New York Times said that the trio of Broom, his long-time bassist Dennis Carroll, and drummer Makaya McCraven produce “…among the most satisfying jazz guitar albums likely to emerge this year.”
Jon Corbett of DownBeat gave the album four stars, saying “Broom is the full monty: ultra-refined timing and tone, continuous flow of ideas, a touch of grease, a treat for the connoisseur.”
As an educator, Broom began his work in 1982 for Jackie McLean, Director of African American Music at Studies for the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. Over the years Broom has also been a lecturer at the American Conservatory of Music (1986–1990), Chicago Musical College — Roosevelt University (1990–1994), The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (1987), DePaul University (2002–2008) and North Park University. He teaches Chicago high school students for the Ravinia Festival Organization’s community outreach Jazz Scholar Program. In 2005 he attended Northwestern University for his master’s degree in jazz pedagogy.