Bobby Broom on “Making it Sound Like Monk”

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WHEN BOBBY BROOM DECIDED TO do a record of tunes by, and associated with, pianist Thelonius Monk (Bobby Broom Plays for Monk [Origin]) he faced some unique issues. “It is difficult to transfer some of Monk’s chords because they’re clusters of closely voiced notes,” he says. “As a guitarist, if I am going to deal with his minor seconds, I have to pare down to fewer notes to get at the essence of the sound he is trying to create,” Broom explains. “Which two to four notes you choose is crucial. We have six potential notes on the guitar, but once we start using all six strings we are stymied by ergonomics—you can’t play wide intervals. As you use fewer strings, you can spread your fingers more to get those close voicings.”

Both Broom’s occasional employer, Sonny Rollins, and Monk exhibit a singular sense of rhythm that can be hard to duplicate. “They don’t play straight eighth-notes, they often springboard off of unpredictable beats.” Broom makes use of hammer-ons and pull-offs to emulate some of Monk’s characteristic rhythms. “‘Work’ is intricate; it had to be taken apart and placed in the right areas on the guitar so it would fall under the fingers,” he notes. “Then it’s about playing with the record to be 100 percent sure your feel is aligned with the original.”

From Guitar Player. By Michael Ross.  Originally published November 1, 2009

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