Bobby Broom on Making It Sound Like Monk

November 1, 2009

0.gp1109_riffs_Broom1_nrWHEN BOBBY BROOM DECIDED TO do a record of tunes by, and associated with, pianist Thelonius Monk (Bobby Broom Plays for Monk [Origin]) he faced some unique issues. “It is difficult to transfer some of Monk’s chords because they’re clusters of closely voiced notes,” he says. “As a guitarist, if I am going to deal with his minor seconds, I have to pare down to fewer notes to get at the essence of the sound he is trying to create,” Broom explains. “Which two to four notes you choose is crucial. We have six potential notes on the guitar, but once we start using all six strings we are stymied by ergonomics—you can’t play wide intervals. As you use fewer strings, you can spread your fingers more to get those close voicings.”

Both Broom’s occasional employer, Sonny Rollins, and Monk exhibit a singular sense of rhythm that can be hard to duplicate. “They don’t play straight eighth-notes, they often springboard off of unpredictable beats.” Broom makes use of hammer-ons and pull-offs to emulate some of Monk’s characteristic rhythms. “‘Work’ is intricate; it had to be taken apart and placed in the right areas on the guitar so it would fall under the fingers,” he notes. “Then it’s about playing with the record to be 100 percent sure your feel is aligned with the original.”


0.gp1109_riffs_poster_nrWANT TO BECOME A WORLD-RECORD BREAKING GUITARIST? IT MIGHT just happen if you bring your ax to the West Fest Woodstock 40th Anniversary concert held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on October 25th. That’s where as many as 3,000 guitarists will attempt to break the official Guinness World Record for Largest Guitar Ensemble by performing a unison version of “Purple Haze.” (The current record was set in Germany in 2007, when 1,802 guitarists rocked out on “Smoke On the Water” and as many as 6,000 guitarists jammed at the 2009 Thanks Jimi Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, playing “Hey Joe,” “Little Wing,” and “Red House,” in addition to “Smoke on the Water.”) To register, click to

“If we break this record, it will make quite a statement,” says festival organizer Boots Hughston, who expects a crowd of 100,000 on hand to watch free performances by everyone from Harvey Mandel and Terry Haggerty to members of the Doors, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, War, and dozens of other vintage bands. “It will make a statement that Hendrix really meant something—that the ’60s really meant something.” —Jude Gold

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