Bobby Broom is young, gifted, black and in a hurry. He was 13 when he picked up the guitar, and three years later he played Carnegie Hall with Sonny Rollins. Now a 20-year-old pro with his first solo album, Broom made his Washington debut last night at Blues Alley.
Comparing Broom to George Benson is as inevitable as it is flattering. Both favor hollow-body electric guitars and sleek and frequently shallow arrangements on records. In concert, though, their primary jazz influences often surface.
Just as Benson can swing effortlessly when he chooses, Broom is capable of putting a hard, angular edge on bop pieces. His tone changed to fit the mood of each number. Fast, single-note runs, for instance, characterized Horace Silver's "Song For My Father." Broom's solo on a John Coltrane tune required a much sharper attack. A less challenging but undeniably catchy tune found Broom breezing along in a funky strut.
The most distinctive sound he created, though, was the big, fat, buoyant tone he gave to Duke Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" when his mentor, Weldon Irvine, joined him on piano for a rousing blues excursion.