Bobby Broom Organi-Sation: Jamalot

Benson-flavoured guitarist Broom updates the organ trio repertoire, mixing standards with covers of Wonder, Clapton and McCartney

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It sounds like fatherly advice from someone who’s been around: jam a lot. Don’t lock yourself up in a room studying Real Books. Break a leg and hop on stage. Sound message, and if anyone has the authority to put it across, it’s 63-year-old Bobby Broom. The Harlem-born guitarist, who permanently settled in Chicago in the early 1980s, came up through the bands of Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey, a start on the good foot that was developed into prolific and acclaimed career steps as a leader.

In keeping with forebears like George Benson and Pat Martino, Broom has always had a particular fondness for the organ format. Soon after his long-standing Deep Blue Organ Trio disbanded early in the 2010s, Broom formed his Organi-Sation with organist Ben Patterson and drummer Kobie Watkins. Following on from the group’s debut album Soul Fingers from 2018, Jamalot consists of live recordings from 2014 and 2019, divided between concert hall appearances as Steely Dan’s support act and a club date in Broom’s hometown staple, The Jazz Showcase.

Home turf, an intimate setting tailor-made for Hammond organ combos, clearly inspires Broom, who lines Tadd Dameron’s Tadd’s Delight and Weill/Nash’s Speak Low with a funky groove and showcases his unmistakable feeling for the blues. Punchy phrasing and patient story building are other assets of his roots-inspired style. The final tune of Jamalot’s all-too short Jazz Showcase part is a take on Paul McCartney’s Long And Winding Road, achingly beautiful from Broom’s Eastern-flavoured introduction to subtle melodic variations.

The concert hall recordings are bereft of warm atmosphere, a contrast which makes Jamalot a somewhat confusing listening experience, but this takes nothing away from the group’s quality performances and a mutually responsive sense of dynamics that is as much attributable to Ben Patterson’s apt shadings and Watkins’ in-the-pocket underpinnings as to Broom’s fine-tuned lyricism. Both Fats Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz and the traditional House Of The Rising Sun get lively readings, the former benefiting from Paterson’s charged preaching from the pulpit, the latter graced with sprightly guitar-chord variations that sound like birthday garlands swinging in the wind on a back porch.

Those that think that adapting Eric Clapton’s rock anthem Layla to jazz is a futile task will be proven wrong. Cross rhythm, fluent swing and Broom’s angular solo make it an interesting affair. It eclipses the version that was released on Broom’s Modern Man in 2010, so evidently there’s still room for development for this veteran of the mainstream and soul-jazz tradition.

Discography
Superstition; Layla; Tennessee Waltz; The Jitterbug Waltz; The House Of The Rising Sun; Tadd’s Delight; The Long And Winding Road; Speak Low (66.13)
Broom (elg); Ben Paterson (org); Kobie Watkins (d). Various concert halls USA, 2014; Jazz Showcase, 2019.
Steele Records