Amazingly talented guitarist Bobby Broom is releasing a record this month you can’t miss, and has a really fascinating backstory full of great career anecdotes. Here’s how he answered our 7 Questions:
1. What Henriksen Amp do you play and what settings do you use?
I began using the Jazz Amp Heads in 2008. I reached out to Bud at that time. I’m not even sure how I first heard about Henriksen, but I was so pleased when I played through them because they were exactly what I needed. The clarity, power and portability. At the time, I was traveling all over the world with Sonny Rollins and I didn’t want to have to play through rentals every night. As far as settings go, here they are, directly from the horse’s mouth:
Frequency settings for the Convertible’s Head:
100 Hz–dialed all the way down
300 Hz–dialed all the way down
1 KHz–about 2 o’clock
3 KHz–about 2 o’clock
10 KHz–about 2 o’clock
2. What instruments do you play?
I’m currently playing an instrument that was handmade for me by a great, young luthier named Dan Koentopp [a Chicago native who currently lives in LA]. Danny apprenticed and worked for years with the Chicago Stradivarius Society. The guitar is called “the Chicagoan.” It’s as fine a handcrafted stringed instrument as any orchestral violin, cello, or whatever. I’m grateful to have finally graduated to playing something of this sonic quality.
3. What styles of music do you play?
Ummm, people call it jazz, so I guess I will too. It’s crazy how there are such sociological and even political attachments associated with these musical styles or categories; always have been, really. It’s interesting to note that my predecessors in the music didn’t really refer to what they were doing as “jazz” per se. It was simply music; and yes, they had a particular way that they expressed themselves, but it all came from the same strain, that being of the African diaspora.
I was influenced by the music on pop radio in the 1970s, which at the time included every style one can imagine – soul/R&B, rock, folk, country, jazzy, everything. It’s also interesting how much content on the radio can be a forecast or reflection of socio-politics. Pop radio in the 1960s was, as far as I remember, an integrated mix of the musical styles from all races and types of people. Toward the end of that time, the beginning of a push toward racial integration had seemingly begun in the area of housing, alongside which, the Civil Rights Movement was underway working to change how Blacks were treated and perceived in this country. My perception of the world and my place in it that was shaped by radio occurred before any reality of that sort actually existed. Meaning, when I was experiencing an integrated existence through music and the fantasy created via the airwaves (in the 1960s), my actual life had not yet progressed to that point and wouldn’t until the mid 1970s. By then radio was reverting to segregated formats, while housing had devolved (depending on your vantage point) to more segregated models.
4. What, if any, warm ups do you do before a gig?
None really. As long as my guitar is in tune and the action feels comfortable, I’m good. That usually means leaving it in the humidified case until just about time to play.
5. What’s the most interesting (good or bad) gig you’ve ever played? Give us the details.
Hmmm… One that immediately comes to mind is my first international trip. It was to South Africa in 1980, so during Apartheid still, with Hugh Masakela. Of course, there was the typical instance of overt racism perpetrated by a mere toddler at the Johannesburg Airport. Then, after playing the first concert of the tour, where we played to an outdoor crowd of thousands, the tour was ‘canceled.’ At that time, Hugh and Miriam Mekeba (who was also performing with us) had been in exile after having left their homeland of South Africa 25 years before. So this concert tour was a homecoming and a political statement of sorts. After the cancellation of the remaining eight or so concerts, we were relegated to perform at the on-site theater at the Holiday Inn in Lesotho, where we were stationed. During our remaining 2 weeks sequestered there (I assume it was for airline ticketing reasons that we were not able to return home immediately), just about the whole band had become very sick from continually eating the poorly stored and refrigerated food from the 24 hour hotel buffet. I remember playing one concert with such excruciating stomach pain that I had to actually rush off stage during the show to quickly get back to my room to relieve myself. I was so sick that I eventually had to go to the ‘hospital.’ That was a whole other experience!
There are too many ‘good’ interesting experiences to recount. Especially early in my career. Imagine being a my kid and playing with legendary musical figure who I only knew via records? People like Al Haig and Walter Bishop, Jr., who were in bands with Charlie Parker! My experiences continued as time went on – Sonny Rollins, Stanley Turrentine, Art Blakey… Half the time, I felt as though I was dreaming.
6. Whats the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten at a gig?
Besides the Lesotho hotel buffet food you mean? I’ve turned down quite a few things in my time, like sea urchin in Sicily. Or squid… no. And eel while in Japan, which is quite normal… no. I have an upcoming trip to Beijing. I’ve been told that eating there will be an adventure.
7. What’s your favorite place to play?
Not really anywhere in particular. I just generally love traveling to perform, especially overseas. I have favorite places not necessarily centered around a performance venue, but more because I just love the place. Except maybe Perugia for the Umbria Jazz festival. Or Juan-Les Pins for their fest. See, now you’ve got me going! Not only are those amazingly beautiful places to be, but their festivals are great as well. Anywhere on the Mediterranean is cool with me. As far as US cities, I’ve always loved Seattle. Pittsburgh is cool too.
Pre-order the new album, “Soul Fingers”, and learn more about Bobby at www.bobbybroom.com