6:21 PM EST, January 24, 2013
The past year was a momentous one for the widely admired Chicago guitarist Bobby Broom.
His first album made up entirely of original compositions, "Upper West Side Story" (Origin Records), won richly deserved critical accolades and considerable airplay, while helping buoy him onto the DownBeat Critics Poll.
In addition, Broom, who had spent much of the past decade touring the globe with tenor saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins, made his belated debut as headliner at the Jazz Showcase and became quite busy at North Park University, teaching a full load of very fortunate guitar students.
In essence, Broom became more deeply rooted than ever in musical Chicago since moving here from his native New York in 1984.
On the other hand, Broom last year lost his 92-year-old father and now finds himself at a kind of crossroads in his life and career.
"That event kind of required that I kind of slow down and take stock of life in a different way," says Broom, who leads his trio this weekend at the Jazz Showcase in a follow-up to last year's successful engagement.
"I'm kind of taking a little bit of ... not a break, just resting."
Certainly a great deal in Broom's musical life has been in flux. He led the Deep Blue Organ Trio — with organist Chris Foreman and drummer Greg Rockingham — at the Green Mill Jazz Club starting in 2003, but that engagement ended last year (the band now plays Tuesday nights at Andy's, 11 E. Hubbard St.). An even more enduring stint ended as well: Broom's 15-year residency at Pete Miller's Steakhouse, which came to a close in 2011.
Broom never expected to be in either place for so long, but he doesn't regret it, he says.
"It's not something we thought about, really, one way or the other," Broom says. "It suited our purposes at the time.
"We were just really just emerging as a group," adds Broom, referring to the Deep Blue run at the Green Mill. "From that experience we got the opportunity to record, and we got to hone our sound and define further what we're about. (But) that time has come and gone.
"Like at Pete Miller's, people asked: 'Are you going to get another regular gig with your trio?'
"And I'd say: 'No, I was there for 15 years. I don't want to look around and see, 'Oh, I'm 65 years old.'"
So Broom, 52, has been conceptualizing the next phase of his musical life. He's considering pursuing a doctorate in jazz studies, he's conceiving a big-band album with the Deep Blue Organ Trio, and he's preparing for a European tour with his trio this summer.
Not bad for a musician allegedly taking a rest, but perhaps Broom's pause really is more psychological and intellectual than practical or musical. For though the guitarist finds himself busier than ever at North Park University and laying ambitious plans for this year, he says he's embracing a more open-ended philosophy toward work.
"I just feel that everything must change," Broom says. "I kind of like the uncertainty of jazz music and of life and all of that. You never know what's going to happen.
"To get too ensconced in some regularity, that's basically a problem, if things go on too long.
"Things have been in flux in a real big way. …
"How long was I supposed to play with Sonny Rollins? I've been with him for 10 years (ending in 2010). In a 30-year career (playing guitar), that's a third of my career."
Even so, Broom knows his tenure with Rollins will always be a high point in his life and will hold an honored place on his resume.
"What those years (with Rollins) mean to me is that I'm a legitimate jazz musician," Broom says, characteristically understating the case. "This is not an experience that everyone gets … to be connected to jazz via this major figure.
"Those kinds of experiences have helped define me as a musician."
And have helped make Broom one of the most respected guitarists in jazz.
Also worth hearing
Patricia Barber: A singular singer-pianist-songwriter, Barber celebrates the release of her first major-label recording in five years, "Smash" (Concord Jazz). Built entirely on original works, "Smash" spotlights the poetry of Barber's lyrics, the mystery of her harmonies and the ingenuity of her pianism. Add to this the sensuousness of her vocals, and Barber has few peers in jazz today. 9 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway; $15; 773-878-5552 or greenmilljazz.com
Spider Saloff: The seasoned singer eradicates boundaries of jazz, cabaret, musicals and what-not. She also can scat with the best of them. 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park Road; $10; 773-348-7592 or katerinas.com
Conjunto: Violinist James Sanders' ensemble explores various facets of Afro-Caribbean jazz, combining the seriousness of concert listening with the exuberance of music for dancing. 10 p.m. Saturday at Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park Road; $10; 773-348-7592 or katerinas.com
Corey Wilkes: The virtuosic Chicago trumpeter puts a sharp edge on mainstream repertoire, bringing to bear his adventures in the avant-garde. He'll lead a quintet. 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E. Hubbard St.; $15; 312-642-6805 or andysjazzclub.com
To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich.
When: Through Sunday
Where: Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court
Tickets: Price varies; 312-360-0234 or jazzshowcase.com
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