“Keyed Up” enjoyed significant radio play, making it one of the most heard jazz records in the U.S. during the first six months following its release. JazzWeek is the chart that gathers the reported “spins” from upwards of two hundred jazz radio stations included in the nation-wide network. “Keyed up” peaked at #7 amid some serious company. In its 19 weeks on the chart, 14 were in the top 20.
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Never one to shy away from an opportunity to exercise his technological acumen, Bobby took VG up on their offer to promote Keyed Up with a homemade video. So, he edited the multitrack masters muting his recorded guitar, omitting the keyboard solo (“I kinda hated doing that,” he lamented), and playing along to create a new version for the occasion.
The result is what you hear here and was featured online in December, along with a record review in the physical magazine’s 2022 edition of the same month.
Since 1955, the Voice of America radio network has been sending the message of jazz throughout regions of the globe, from Africa to the former Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc countries such as Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, the Baltic countries (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia), and last but not least, Cuba. Its former one hour show has featured legendary jazz figures like Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Sara Vaughn, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.
The show has been revamped, adding new jazz host Dan Bindert, Station Manager and former DJ at Chicago’s jazz station, WDCB. For the new show series called, “Jazz from the heart of America,” Bindert recently produced an episode with Bobby as his spotlight guest, presenting Broom in an interview and playing music from “Keyed Up,” as well as vintage and more recent cuts by Sonny Rollins which featured Bobby on guitar.
Since 1955, the Voice of America radio network has been sending messages of jazz throughout regions of the globe, from Africa to the former Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc countries such as Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, the Baltic countries (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia), and last but not least, Cuba. It’s former one hour show has featured legendary jazz figures like Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Sara Vaughn, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald.
The show has been revamped, adding new jazz host Dan Bindert, Station Manager and former DJ at Chicago’s jazz station, WDCB. Bindert recently produced an episode with Bobby Broom as his spotlight guest, presenting Broom in an interview and playing music from “Keyed Up,” as well as vintage and more recent cuts by Sonny Rollins which featured Bobby on guitar.
Bobby was featured on “Chicago’s Very Own,” the WGN Evening News segment produced by Emmy winning Anchor, Micah Materre. After Materre attended a couple of Broom’s live performances, pre and post pandemic, the news crew shadowed him, capturing him during his teaching duties as tenured Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University and Ravinia Jazz Mentor to Chicago public high schoolers.
Twelve exemplary recorded performances from one of the greatest legends of the jazz guitar.
Any discussion concerning the most important guitarists in jazz must include George Benson. He along with fellow six-stringer, Pat Martino, were the pillars of jazz on the instrument in the 1970s, before trends changed, and focus turned to more additives and categorical obfuscations.
My attraction to Benson was what ignited my life’s work. As a fifteen year old I thought, “If I can one day make the exhilaration and full range of emotion that I feel from listening to him, that’s what I want to do!”
Today, Benson has continued to practice, evolve and excel in his musical gifts. However, I’m not sure that he is sufficiently appreciated by modern-day jazz guitarists and students. As an answer to that and as a listening aid and primer for aspiring jazz guitarists, I’m republishing this article that I was asked to write in 2011. It originally appeared on a now defunct website by a very well respected jazz journalist. It includes my commentary of a dozen of George’s recorded performances that I feel offer important glimpses into his style during different periods throughout his career. These are just some of my favorites, and by no means should be thought of as a “best of” list. I could easily pick twelve more cuts and wax on with equal enthusiasm. With that said, please read, listen and most of all enjoy!
Glass ceilings aside, jazz’s die-hard, urban six-stringer Bobby Broom, remains relevant in today’s jazz world. His recordings typically find themselves among the top spots on national jazz radio charts. When performing live with either of his units, the Bobby Broom Trio or the Organi–Sation, whether at home or abroad, audiences receive a deeply heartfelt show, that represents his lifelong dedication to jazz and music.
Recently, Bobby appears in two new jazz texts. The first, by Lilian Dericq from France, who has written a modern-day answer to the book, “Three Wishes,” by Baroness De Koenigswarter. Koenigswarter, known as the ‘Jazz Baroness,’ was a descendant of the Rothschild family and a friend and patron to many of the leading jazz figures of the 1940s and 50s. In 2006, a book of her transcribed interviews with 300 musicians, conducted between 1961-’66, was posthumously published.
“3 Questions For Today’s Jazz Musicians” similarly engages 334 modern-era jazz musicians. Along with 333 of jazz’s remaining legends and current stars, Bobby responds about his dream-band, fondest musical memories and hope for the future.
Broom also shares his anecdote about his time with jazz icon, mentor and fellow guitarist Kenny Burrell, in a new book about Detroit musicians called, “Jazz From Detroit.” Written by Mark Stryker, the book chronicles jazz music via the involvement of influential musicians such as Barry Harris, the Jones brothers – Hank, Thad and Elvin, Milt Jackson, Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd, Burrell, etc. Bobby recalls a story from his time in Kenny’s “Jazz Guitar Band,” the group that Burrell assembled in 1987 for which he hand-picked the young guitarists, Rodney Jones and Broom, to present them and the new band for international touring and live recordings at New York City’s Village Vanguard.
When Bobby was asked what being included in these books means to him, he reminisced: “There was a point during my early relationship with jazz music, when I became despondent because I thought that I was born too late to ever be involved in the music with the people and to the degree I wanted to. Even though I was very disappointed about that at the time, I vowed to practice hard anyway because what was most important to me was that I learn to play up to the level that I heard coming from those recordings. It seems that when I made that decision, my life in jazz began.”
the Swan Song of Evanston’s Popular Steakhouse and Historic Jazz Spot
I started playing at Pete Miller’s in 1996, two years after it had transitioned from being a Bennigan’s family restaurant. Shortly after I began working there, my then-girlfriend Maureen began doing the lunch shift there as a waitress. Her ascent seemed destined and she quickly moved up from her position to becoming a manager and then General Manager. Playing at Pete’s during those early days was no small feat. It still had some of the fluffy Bennigan’s, middle-American oblivion, as far as arts and culture were concerned. So the music was naturally supposed to be relegated to the background, even though it occupied it’s own separate and substantial space, with the stage, sound system and lights. But when Maureen became the general manager part of her staff training was to educate and inform them about how to deal with patrons regarding the fact that there was music in the place and also how to exude an air of respect for the musicians and their music. Maureen’s cultivation and leadership and me and my guys learning to play the room while trying to meet our own exacting musical standards, in spite of the din, made for a change in the way that music was generally regarded in that place. It also helped that a burgeoning jazz education scene in the Chicagoland and surrounding areas brought handfuls of broke and hungry young jazz students to hear what they felt was great jazz music for no cover charge.
After a year or so of these developments, we had created an exciting jazz scene there in Evanston, just a little off the beaten track. With the attention that I was getting from Jazz Radio and national press, we were able to attract the attention of NPR, who wanted to do a “Toast of the Nation,” live New Year’s Eve, radio broadcast of us at Pete Miller’s. There was also the Jump and Verve jazz festival which, when Maureen took over managing booking the acts, presented Paquito DiRivera, Stanley Turrentine, McCoy Tyner, Dr. John, Edgar Winter… she wasn’t playing around! I was always on the road traveling during those festivals and I recall her being super-busy during them, way too busy to talk to me on the phone. I thought to myself, “why can’t she talk to me? She’s just doing a little festival.“When I finally got to see the little festival I was shocked at its magnitude and it’s level of professionalism. It was as well run and organized as any festival I’d done anywhere in the world. “That’s my baby!,” I said, referring to its beautiful curator.
From 2002 to around 2010 Pete Miller’s steakhouse was ostensibly Maureen Broom‘s place. She had cultivated a vibe in there that was all about community, inclusion and the kind of warmth in a neighborhood restaurant establishment that everyone could relate to. Although the cuisine was not quite as good as the four stars it touted itself to be, Maureen’s elegance, cheery and charming disposition and professionalism, easily made up for that one-or-so stars. Her staff adored and loved working for her. She became a role model and mentor to many young people that came through her tutelage as her staff, producing some fine restaurateurs, sommeliers and generally responsible people. Naturally, her staff’s admiration for her resulted in a turnaround of a once fairly good restaurant with music, into something so much more. Pete’s had become a destination spot. Anybody traveling to Evanston was told to go there for the food and the music. The place was always packed and exciting. I held musical court there for a total of 15 years. That weekly gig is where the Bobby Broom trio got its legs conceptually and was able to go on to produce four of the recordings that have defined and captured our sound.
Not a bad lot of results from a humble, weekly steakhouse gig. It’s been nearly ten years since Maureen and I have been associated with the place, yet we’re still sorry to see it go because of our fond memories. But those will live on for us and quite a lot of people for a very long time.
A member of the community of musicians that are part of a great tradition of jazz that continues to live and operate in Chicago, was the tragically unheralded guitarist named Roland Faulkner.
I first met Roland in much the same surreptitious manner. It was the latter part of the 1980s and I was on an errand to pick up take-out dinner that we’d ordered from an Italian restaurant in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. As I waited for the food, I was jarred by the sheer mastery of live, solo jazz guitar that was being played by a gentleman in the corner of the restaurant. After hearing two or three tunes and marveling at his command of his instrument and music in general, I made my way over to find out who he was. I felt it impossible for someone that good to be playing in such a low-profile setting. There should’ve been a cover charge and tables, or rather, rows of theater seats, full of listeners with ears affixed to every note and chord of every phrase he created.
After chatting and exchanging numbers that night, Roland and I would stay acquainted for years afterwards. Occasionally, I’d call him to replace me on some gigs in Chicago if I was out of town. For a period, we would often see each other working out at the Lincoln Park YMCA. I’m not ashamed to say that I wish I’d talked to him more about his career in music. And also that I’d been more like the person I am today, who might have tried to assist or advocate for him however I could. I’m sure he had some great stories to tell about his work with Lionel Hampton, Sammy Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holliday, Joe Williams, Lena Horne, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Brother Jack McDuff, and Eddie Harris.
It’s only as a result of commodification and codification that we have a predominance of jazz that lacks personality, feeling, soul and originality.
It’s at this point that I must say that it irks me that a musical giant and Chicago native (one with the talent of a national treasure) could be walking around as he was, like an invisible man, in the city of his birth. It’s a travesty that I’ll never quite understand or accept. We enjoy jazz and say that we love it, that we respect, revere and support its artists and practitioners. Yet we don’t see them unless and until others from outside our zip codes do. It’s as though we don’t really know what to look for, have the chutzpa to proclaim our homegrown’s greatness, or know exactly what to do to support them. I’ve always felt it best – especially in jazz – to allow musicians the latitude to inform the public, as well as the jazz cognoscenti (in the form of organizations or individuals) about the next great jazz discoveries.
Jazz music is a lifelong process involving intensive study, practice, apprenticeship, discovery, self-actualization and evolution. The development and grooming of jazz wunderkinds is best left to the musicians themselves, usually those who have been through this process themselves. It’s a perfectly and naturally organic process that successfully yielded all of the great jazz of the 20th century. That era produced innumerable original musical voices and personalities, all coming from within groups of elders and peers. It’s only as a result of commodification and codification that we have a predominance of jazz that lacks personality, feeling, soul and originality.
Listen to Roland here on Eddie Harris’s “Salute to Bird” (@1:03) and tell me if those four characteristics – personality, feeling, soul and originality – aren’t abounding. Better yet, let me tell you. It’s all there! The time-feel, naturally informed flow of ideas, sound and vibe…
All Hail Roland Faulkner, jazz guitarist extraordinaire! Not a member of “great man theory ” jazz history, but of the Chicago community of great jazz men of the 1960s – 2000s.
Modernity and Trends in Jazz Music
This subject arises from time to time and often enough (in my many years as a jazz educator) for me to stop for a moment to reflect and share my thoughts about it. I was so glad to read the following post from my friend and colleague, alto saxophone great, Donald Harrison. Coincidentally, I was just having a conversation with another colleague the other day about some young students who are misguided regarding their attraction to “modern” players in lieu of those who are aesthetically mature, grounded in various musical traditions, are well informed in a variety musical styles and have developed personalities of their own as instrumentalists and artists.
That word “modern” is a red flag or red herring for me. When I hear it, it’s often used to differentiate between those who are not only young and current, but who also dismiss idiomatic jazz language and blues sensibility as passé and rather, opt for technically adroit, scalar (is that a word?) and pattern-based playing. Those latter characteristics are cool (and valuable) when they’re a part of the overall mix, blended well with the other two – jazz “vocabulary” and the blues – which for us, are the lifeblood of the jazz art form.
“… the goal of jazz is to truly understand all of the contributions of prior jazz masters and all other styles of music at your highest level then integrate that understanding into a universal approach to jazz as an individual and as a group.”Donald Harrison
What is “modern” today will be old tomorrow or next week. However, what is substantive, captivating and ‘good’, remains so for the duration. In fact, valuable contributions in jazz – whether in the form of a style, an instrumental ensemble, instrumentalist, or playing modality – never really get old and to the contrary, always feel fresh and new. These are the timeless contributions that become classic. The modal style of the Hard Bop period, funky ‘Soul-Jazz, ‘Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Steely Dan, Miles Davis or Wes Montgomery, Trane changes, the piano stylings of Herbie or McCoy. All of these have become “classic” and are as ‘modern,’ fresh, exciting, captivating and as vital as when they first hit the scene!
I can tell a youngster these things, and I sometimes do when I’m confidant that the info will be received in the loving spirit from which it is given. However, there are those times when I feel that my concern will be seen as a useless harangue and quite possibly a turn-off (like the bitter rantings of an “old-head”). It’s in those instances that I quiet down and back off, with hope that the youngster will eventually figure things out on their own and the realizations come to them naturally and gracefully, through the music. One thing that I realize, having matured in this jazz field from a youngster to an elder, is that the elders usually only share their perspectives if they see potential in you. In that case, they’re sharing with you out of love and care for jazz music.
As far as I knew, I’d never made it onto the DownBeat Readers Poll list for guitar players, …
…until a few days ago, as I was scouring the internet for an instructional article of mine that they published in 2008, when an interesting link appeared. Curiously, I clicked it and was shocked to see my name included among that list of guitarists in the 2015 Readers’ Poll! I had absolutely no idea! That happened four years ago!!
After the shock and then elation subsided, I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t been able to say thank you to all the people who voted for me. So, I sure hope that they read this at some point. It really was an accomplishment that I had made a – that’s never gonna happen – kind of peace with. Honestly, I was honored and happy enough having made the Critics’ Poll 3 times, 2012 – ’14. (Actually I also just learned as well, that I made my 4th appearance on that one in 2017.)
So, to those who voted, thank you so very much! I’m sure I used to dream about this as a teenager, and wonder what it would feel like. A supreme honor just about sums it up. It’s very gratifying to feel recognized and appreciated… and included.