L-R: Gary Motley, Kenny Davis, Bobby Broom, and Kobie Watkins perform at Emory University's 2024 Jazz Fest, Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. (credit: Bill Head)

Bobby Broom and Gary Motley Trio light up Emory Jazz Fest with soulful brilliance

2024 Emory Jazz Fest: Bobby Broom & Gary Motley Trio
February 2, 2024
Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia – USA

Bobby Broom, guitar; Gary Motley, piano; Kenny Davis, bass; Kobie Watkins, drums.
Gary MOTLEY: “Pops n’Nem.”
Budd POWELL: “Hallucinations (Budo)”
Bobby BROOM: “Coming Home”
Gary & Veronica MOTLEY::“Drive”
Kenny DAVID: “Silent Moment”
James WILLIAMS: “Soulful Bill”

Patrick Tabeek | 5 FEB 2023

On a perfect night, the first in a while where we didn’t see some frigid weather, Bobby Broom, artist in residence at the 21st Annual Emory Jazz Fest, and the Gary Motley Trio with Dr. Gary Motley on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, and Kobie Watkins on drums, brought a classic, timeless sound to the beautiful Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University. Broom and the trio have performed with many of the greats of jazz, from Sonny Rollins’s band (of which Broom and Watkins were both members for different periods of time), Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Arturo Sandoval, Branford Marsalis, George Coleman, and the list goes on. At 8pm on the dot, the show was on, and I was able to settle in and hear these great musicians make some music.

Broom’s ability to transcend genres of jazz makes him such an incredible powerhouse of guitar playing. He has a unique and entrancing sound that sometimes is missing in guitar-heavy jazz. His character on stage also set a great mood for the entire show — jokes for the whole room, excellent communication and banter on stage, and all-around just good vibes for the entire show.

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After a brief introduction, the band was on stage and got straight into it, opening with a Gary Motley original entitled “Pops n’Nem.” The band was incredibly well-balanced, especially for such a lively concert hall. Watkins was particularly impressive on this tune (and the entire performance, mind), maintaining such a fine balance while also quoting Bobby’s solo lines. For his own tune, there was nothing too flashy in Motley’s solo, which was the general consensus of the band, I feel. It was all laid back and in the pocket. The band immediately transitioned to Budd Powell’s “Hallucinations (Budo),” where Watkins was really able to shine with a melodically gorgeous solo, especially in a more harmonically demanding tune than the first.

Next up was a Broom original, “Coming Home,” where the audience got its first taste of authentic Bobby Broom smooth jazz sound. While still somewhat demanding of the ear, this song was a breath of fresh air. The whole band changes dynamic direction with so much precision that it feels like someone was doing a studio mix on the spot. You can tell all of the guys are having an amazing time on stage, which is brilliant to watch as a listener.

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Following that was another original from Dr. Motley, “Drive,” co-composed by Veronica Motley, which I appreciated Broom shouting out. This tune was much more intense and was more in the direction of what I would call “Mario-kart jazz.” It’s fast-paced, flashy, harmonically dense, yet brilliant to listen to if done right, which it absolutely was here. Motley himself really proved my point during his solo, quoting a Mario coin noise (B to E for those wondering), which gave me a good laugh while I was still being mesmerized by the talent on stage.

Next was an original from bassist Kenny Davis entitled “Silent Moment,” a beautiful ballad in which we were able to hear Davis’ own unique compositional style and sound. I’d describe his playing with the bow, which features primarily through each chorus, as the quality of an older gentleman speaking. Every word and phrase is so intentional and filled with thought and experience. Motley’s comping propelled this lush and cinematic piece into the next tune, by a former bandmate of Broom, James Williams’ “Soulful Bill,” where the vibe was very much still smooth and even comforting.

That set up the night’s final tune, a blues, that remained untitled. It was a fiery and brilliant way to end the show, where each member could have their final say and round out an outstanding performance. Davis was finally let out of his cage in his solo, Broom hit us with some classic blues licks, as well as Motley, and Watkins performed a colossal solo at the end of the tune that kept everyone on their toes, and then everyone on their feet for a standing ovation at the end of the performance.

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About the author:
Patrick Tabeek is a freelance violist and violinist, private instructor of violin, viola and piano, and composer primarily based in the Atlanta metro area.