Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bobby Broom - Plays for Monk (Origin, 2009)

Tributes to the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk are a little thick on the ground, but they are not often done with a guitar trio. Guitarist Bobby Broom looks to rectify this, performing with Dennis Carroll on bass and Kobie Watkins on drums in a discreet and low key tribute to the jazz icon. Broom has played on and off with the great saxophonist Sonny Rollins over the years as well as his own bands, so it is clear that he has studied both Monk and the history of jazz music and knows it well. It is interesting to hear the familiar Monk melodies taken on guitar. Broom has an appealing tone on his instrument, getting an accessible clear tone coming from the masters like Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell. Everything here is certainly well played, but the tracks that I enjoyed the most were the impish take on "In Walked Bud" which features Broom zipping through the timeless melody before embarking on a fine solo. "Rhythm-a-Ning" also crackles with energy as the group takes some spirited round robin solos. The biggest problem for an album like this is that the shadow Thelonious Monk casts is so long that I think it is hard for musicians to grab a toehold and make the songs their own. This is clear with some of the slower performances like "Ask Me Now" or "Reflections" which are certainly pleasant to listen to, but never make you sit up and take notice. I think this is a nice album to have on while you are reading, it makes for enjoyable background listening but never dominates. I guess this seems like faint praise... I enjoyed listening to the music but I wasn't knocked out by it. The excitement and angular rough edges that make Monk's music so compelling have been rounded off a little bit too much to get me really excited about it.
Bobby Broom Plays For Monk - amazon.com

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