If you admire the sleek playing of Chicago guitarist Bobby Broom – and what jazz listener doesn't? – pay heed: This Friday and Saturday will be the last time to hear him leading a band in town for the next several months.
That's because the long-running Deep Blue Organ Trio – staffed by Broom, organist Chris Foreman and drummer Greg Rockingham – will be touring the country as the opening act for Steely Dan starting July 19 in Atlantic City and contuining into October (with a Chicago-area show Aug. 1 at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park).
Though Deep Blue has toured with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's brainchild sporadically in the past, the soulful organ trio never before had been invited to play a 50-city run with them. So in the course of four months, Deep Blue will reach a larger, coast-to-coast audience than it ever had imagined possible.
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"It's a pretty big deal – it's an honor," says Broom. "They're such a beloved group. … It allows us to get to some places that we have otherwise not been able to get to. And we can expand our fan base."
That's putting it mildly. Though Deep Blue commands a loyal Chicago following for its Tuesday-nights engagement at Andy's Jazz Club (and, before that, for its long run at the Green Mill Jazz Club), the chance to reach Steely Dan's large and devoted audience would be coveted by just about any jazz ensemble.
But Broom and his Deep Blue colleagues never lobbied for the job. Several years ago, when Steely Dan was playing the Chicago Theatre, "We got a call from JAM Productions: 'Do you want to open for Steely Dan?' We did it – it was a one-off."
It must have gone well, for a couple years later Deep Blue was invited to play 10 dates on tour, but a couple of years after that, just five.
"We thought: 'That's not going in the right direction,'" recalls Broom, with a laugh. "So we had our fingers crossed for the next touring season, and it did happen."
That owes, in part, to Becker and Fagen's love of the organ-trio format, says Broom, with bands led by organ titan Joey DeFrancesco and Sam Yahel having held the opening slot before. But Deep Blue holds particular appeal.
"This award-winning, chart-topping ensemble – a jewel of the Chicago music scene – is the current avatar of the classic B-3 organ trio sound," notes Steely Dan's Web site.
"The groove? A mile deep, a mile wide. The blowing? Fierly, soulful, swinging and lyrical. The blues? You've come to the right place: members Chris Forman (B-3 organ), Greg Rockingham (drums) and Bobby Broom (guitar) deliver all the blues you can use, and then some."
True enough, organist Foreman's fat chords and beautifully arched phrases are powered by drummer Rockingham's forward-pressing rhythms and enhanced by guitarist Broom's lithe, exquisitely crafted melodic lines. It's all vividly documented on Deep Blue recordings such as "Wonderful!" (a buoyant tribute to music of Stevie Wonder on Origin Records) and "Goin' to Town: Live at the Green Mill" (Delmark Records).
That work neatly complements the sound of Steely Dan.
"They have a love for jazz," says Broom. "When we started to open for them … we weren't really sure about what their audience's response would be to us. But it was really strong, we were really pleasantly surprised.
"It made sense, because of their music. Their audiences have to be very sophisticated, so we just realized, well, yeah, of course they would like what we're doing."
After the Steely Dan tour, Broom plans to go into the recording studio with Deep Blue and also with his trio, which features bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Makaya McCraven – the band he'll be leading this weekend at Andy's. That group just completed its own European tour, further evidence that Broom – who had played a long run with Sonny Rollins – still remains very much a guitarist on the upswing.
That's keeping him on the road – and away from his family – for increasing amounts of time, but "that's the nature of the beast," says Broom.
When it comes to Broom, that beast clearly wants more.
Also worth hearing
Corey Wilkes: The ferocious, stylistically free-wheeling Chicago trumpeter busily tours the world in a variety of bands. But he alights back home in Chicago for the weekend, leading a quartet. 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4, 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday; at the Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct.; $20-$35; 312-360-0234 or jazzshowcase.com