Review: Bobby Broom has 'Shining Hour' at Jazz Showcase

By Howard Reich
November 14, 2014
Chicago guitarist Bobby Broom chose well in naming his most recent album "My Shining Hour," for this year has amounted to a glowing passage in his career.

The recording has won richly deserved critical praise and listener popularity, but that's just part of what has been happening with Broom. He reached a wide audience over the summer opening for Steely Dan across the country, and he headlined on the main stage of the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Pritzker Pavilion.

As if to reach for one more triumph before 2014 comes to a close, Broom opened a four-night engagement at the Jazz Showcase on Thursday evening, leading the trio mostly in music from "My Shining Hour." Joined by bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraken, who partner Broom on the recording, the guitarist played standards with the freshness and integrity that have made this year's achievements possible.

The trio's transformation of Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things" crystallized the appeal of Broom's work in familiar repertory, Broom opening with a solo that subtly displaced rhythmic accents in the original. Already, the tune was a bit askew. Once the rest of the band joined in, Broom took flight, veering far afield from the famous melody, crafting fast-moving lines replete with unexpected pauses and jagged contours. Bassist Carroll provided bristling counterpoint, and drummer McCraven kept energy pushing forward with delicacy and control.

Though Broom clearly was in the lead, these three players defined rhythm, color and attack as a single organism. In "Just One of Those Things" and other works, they modified tempos in motion, pressing ahead or lingering back as they wished – and as only keenly attuned collaborators can do.

Some in the audience might have winced when Broom and McCraven launched into the opening phrases of "Sweet Georgia Brown," but it didn't take more than a few bars before Broom left the original in the dust. Or perhaps we should say he used its structure as an opportunity for free-flying improvisation, Broom's lithe lines dancing around the beat and rarely landing on it. Guitar phrases darted every which way, Carroll and McCraven giving Broom plenty of space in which to explore.

Even the title track of the album held surprise, Broom opening with the pastels one might have expected of a ballad treatment of "My Shining Hour" but quickly turning to a bigger, bolder approach. Here was a rigorous development of the theme, Broom playing gnarly, intricate melodic lines based on complex harmonic choices. All the while, the trio kept driving, Broom's far-reaching improvisations set against imperturbable rhythmic motion.

So it went in this set, the trio casting its signature combination of smarts and swing to mostly familiar songs. "Sweet and Lovely" sounded sharp and funky, "Tennessee Waltz" soft and dreamy. Broom's partners contributed significantly, Carroll playing lines almost as nimble as Broom's, no small feat on stand-up bass. Drummer McCraven packed a profusion of ideas into accompaniments and solos, but at a muted dynamic level that respected the sonic balance of the trio at large.

The mutual respect these players have for each other was obvious, and it deepened the music-making.

When: 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4, 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday

Where: Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court

Admission: $20-$35; 312-360-0234 or jazzshowcase.com

hreich@tribpub.com