If you’ve showed up for Steely Dan’s continuing Jamalot Ever After tour on time, then you are already familiar with the great tone and texture of opening act Bobby Broom, the Chicago-based guitarist. Curious to hear more? Here’s your chance.
With his largest release, My Shining Hour, Broom forgoes expressive original compositions like those on his most recent album, 2012’s Upper West Side Story — focusing instead on jazz standards. A jazzer with a wide musical vocabulary, Broom deploys his stellar and versatile band of bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven with the cunning of an insane genius. The results are gorgeous, respectful of the originals and often jaw dropping in their emotional punch. Amazing, considering the album was recorded in three days at Shirk studios in Chicago by engineers Anthony Gravino and Jonathan Horwich.
My Shining Hour kicks off with “Sweet and Lovely,” and it’s easy to be captivated by McCraven expert stick work. But then you’d miss the elegant tone and phrasing of Broom’s hollow-bodied guitar. It’s also easy take for granted the way Carroll holds the bottom down, while the band glides from 5/4 to 7/4 time signatures. Subtle and captivating. On the song “My Ideal,” Carroll likewise provides a perfect foil to Broom’s guitar work with his mid-song solo. Then McCraven steps in with an all-too-brief drum break, demonstrating in a few bars why he’s one of the best in the business.
The pace picks up with Cole Porter’s “Just One Of Those Things,” as the three musicians toying with each other to create tension. Broom’s fleet-fingered solo dances effectively around the song’s main theme, yet still fits perfectly. The title track continues the album’s concept. Hinting of East Coast jazz traditions, and creating visions of jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald, the song effectively casts a spell over the listener. Then “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a joyous shuffle that provides the perfect opportunity for Brown to show off his be-bop, cleanses the palette.
“Jitterbug Waltz,” suggested by bassist Carroll, seems an unlikely choice. The evocative bassline and solo by Carroll, powerful snare work by McCarven and adventurous guitar of Broom combine, however, to create a new song — while maintaining the integrity of the original.
In the end, this group has cast a perfect set of American standards, and the concluding “Tennessee Waltz” is no exception. Bouyed by McCraven’s stellar cymbal work, Carroll’s growling walking bass and Broom’s impressive phrasing — he impressively dances around the song’s main theme — “Tennessee Waltz” continues the spell cast from the first note on My Shining Hour. Or, in other words, if you’re going to the Steely Dan show, get there early.
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