Bobby Broom & The Organi-sation. Soul Fingers. MRi Entertainment, 2018.
Bobby Broom, Guitar, Electric Bass on track 4
Ben Paterson, Hammond B3 organ
Kobie Watkins, Drums
Steve Jordan, Drums on tracks 5 & 6
Justin “Justefan” Thomas, Vibes on track 2
Sergio Pires and Luciano Antonio, Acoustic Guitars
Andrew Toombs, Melodica
Filipe Fraga, Percussion Bobby Broom - electric bass on track 4
String arrangements by Matt Jones, performed by the Matt Jones Orchestra
Horn section: Ron Blake - Tenor and Baritone Saxophones; Chris Rogers - Trumpet and Fluegelhorn
Percussion ensemble: Kobie Watkins, Steve Jordan and Sammy Figueroa* (*congas on track 3 & solo on track 7
Back in 1996, Herbie Hancock, with his album The New Standard, made a valiant but not lasting attempt to shift the concept of jazz “standard” from songs crafted in the first half of the 20thCentury to pop/folk/rock/r&b hits that his generation was raised on. While a fair number of instrumental artists and groups have ventured into that “new” generation since, the world of jazz/pop singers has not really changed; it seems that before a singer will be allowed a wider range of creativity and application, he/she must produce an album of the old standards. Therefore, we still have a glut of vocal recordings featuring many of the same old songs.
Then we have people like Chicago-area guitarist Bobby Broom, who has deftly negotiated a career that has gained some national attention, working though the world of straight-up jazz connections and into his own career. As his independence grew, so did his preferred choice of material, which lately has been dedicated to the music of his youth—those golden 60’s and early 70’s. His tastes are broad and non-prejudicial, thus exposing a truth not always apparent to postmodern listeners: good music is appreciated by all sorts of people, especially musicians, who don’t operate by a color line.
Broom’s newest contribution to this evidence is Soul Fingers, an organ trio album produced by the esteemed Steve Jordan, who has fashioned a sound not unlike that of Wes Montgomery with Creed Taylor, but with a bit more restraint on the embellishments of horns and strings. What emerges is certainly soul but with Broom’s own Montgomery-inspired style making sure the jazz still works its magic.
It appears Broom was listening to everything, back in the day. This album includes R&B hits, two Beatles songs, a country-pop classic, a pop radio standard, a Steely Dan favorite, and a British psychedelic hit, with an original mixed in. This format continues a trend begun in 2001 with his album Stand!, which also traveled between the U.S. and Great Britain in its celebration of the same era. Much of Song and Dance(2007) was presented the same way, though Broom has also been careful to demonstrate his expertise in the conventional jazz tradition (Modern Man, The Way I Play, and Bobby Broom Plays for Monk) and his ability to compose (Upper West Side Story).
On this new album, Broom employs his Organi-sation, with organist Ben Paterson and drummer Kobie Watkins (featured in CJM’s September issue). The band’s synergy is evident immediately, as Broom and his friends cruise into “Come Together” as easily as rowing a fishing boat into a placid lake. While Broom does attend to the melody, his playing is more in line with the rhythm, interpreting right from the start. Jordan’s production savvy here is wise, letting these guys groove without embellishment. The emphasis is on Broom, while Paterson’s fills and lines play off of his leader’s moves eloquently. My only beef is with the length…I really wanted these guys to keep going!
“Ode to Billie Joe,” performed as a shape-shifting shuffle, seems daunting to this listener, but Broom pulls it off, with Watkins’ quiet but sturdy rhythm holding it together. Broom navigates the song’s dramatic chorus well, and Jordan’s use of horns is more subtle than insistent—one wonders if they were even needed, given the tasty inclusion of vibes played by Justin Thomas. This unexpected treat proves the ethos of its provocateur and certifies the quality of the album.
Several songs get a more-or-less Smooth Jazz treatment, where the melody is dominant—the songs are memorable and pleasurable enough to be simply heard, again. “Do It Again” and “Summer Breeze” are two of these. Another, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” receives a slightly more sophisticated treatment, withSergio Pires and Luciano Antonio’s acoustic guitars providing a Gilbertoesque bossa backdrop to Broom’s opening melody rendition. With Paterson and Andrew Toombs’ melodica subtly filling spaces, this time Bobby takes off, and his extended solo that leads to the song’s end is a thing of beauty. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” pretty much matches the song, a place for Paterson to be more up front.
Another major Broom moment occurs on “Get Ready,” through which the trio happily jounces, with the aid of Sammy Figueroa’s congo dancing, leading to two expressive, groovy Broom solos that pleasurably ride the groove. Jordan’s back-layering of the horn section brings a blues sheen to the proceedings. This song, here, is a well-cooked stew that brings all sorts of flavor to one’s musical palate.
Broom’s original, the gently loping “Eyes of Faith,” is clearly gospel-tinged, receiving delicate, restrained string accompaniment throughout from the Matt Jones Orchestra, a perfect Jordanian mix. Broom’s lovely melody begs for lyrics. And, as usual, he ends the song with some eloquent playing that ultimately fades into the horizon.
Broom ends with a leisurely stroll through “Guitar Man” (here, titled “The Guitar Man”), with the trio accompanied again by the Jones Orchestra. Jordan’s neatly balanced mix creates a recording worthy of any Smooth Jazz format, good enough to be placed side-by-side with those classic Taylor-Montgomery creations.
Perhaps Bobby’s insistence that we consider the quality of these songs and others he has “remembered” will affect other artists, especially singers, in reconsideration of what becomes a “standard” to be explored by jazz artists. As I suggested in an earlier review of Bill Boris’ guitar record, Soul Fingersis the kind of album that one could imagine using to provide a more intelligent musical party background. This ain’t elevator music; there are moments where even the most loquacious person will have to stop and ask, “What is THAT?” “Smooth” is a nice starting point with this album; “respect” will be the finishing point. Mr. Broom, The Guitar Man who has not ever made a bad recording, has blessed us once again.