Multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg still enjoys making music for music’s sake
Although singer and songwriter David Bromberg has been recording and playing music of all styles professionally for more than 50 years, he doesn’t consider himself a musicologist.
“I know a little bit about music,” Bromberg said during a phone call from Bloomington, Delaware. “While there are many people who study one segment of music, I’m all over the map. I just enjoy music.”
Bromberg and his quintet will share his enjoyment with Park City when he plays three nights from Jan. 11 to Jan. 13 at the Egyptian Theatre.
As his fans already know, Bromberg said he will hit the stage and shoot from the hip.
“My fans generally understand that there is no planned set lists, and I don’t do requests,” he said. “When I finish one tune, I get my idea of what kind of energy I want and pick out the next tune. That’s the way the shows go, so no two are alike.”
While Bromberg is versed in various musical styles, the concerts will mostly feature his guitar playing.
“These days I mostly stick to acoustic and electric guitar, but I might play a little mandolin here and there,” he said.
While many of the songs will be culled from his career, Bromberg said he might play some tunes that are found on his most recent album, the award-winning “The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues,” which was released on Red House Records last year.
Bromberg said the album’s title is a riddle in and of itself.
“For one thing, I don’t think there is such a thing as pure blues,” he said. “The term blues was originally created for marketing, and people define it differently, because in every subgenre in American music – from country-western to classical, jazz and everything in between – there is this thing called blues.”
For starters, Bromberg pointed to examples such as the Delta Blues and the Piedmont Blues.
“Then you have more sophisticated blues by Lonnie Johnson and there’s B.B. King and Albert King,” he said. “Then you have the rock ‘n’ roll interpretation of the blues. So everybody decides for themselves what they want to mean by blues.”
As Bromberg prepared for the album, he decided to give himself the luxury of recording songs that fit in his idea of the blues.
“I did this because I usually play every kind of music imaginable,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone will deny that any of the songs on the album is blues.”
Bromberg said “The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing But the Blues” is his first recording he’s ever done that gave him boundaries.
“I don’t think it’s as limited in scope as most other blues albums,” he said. “Although there is no country-western blues on there, but you have some Ray Charles, Robert Johnson and different things that I consider blues. So I didn’t think of it as a big challenge. It was just another way to do things, and I think it worked out well.”
Others enjoyed the album as well as seen by the 2017 Downbeat Critics Poll award for Blues Album.
“I don’t win anything, but I won that,” Bromberg said with a laugh. “And that means I got a nice plaque to put on the wall and several somebodies liked what I did. And these somebodies are people who’ve earned some respect in their music careers.”
Bromberg’s own music career started as a backup musician, playing with Jerry Jeff Walkers, Ed Sanders and Al Kooper, to name a few.
He confessed, however, that he picked up the guitar because he had alternate motives.
“One time, very early in my career, I was playing in a band that backed up a woman named Kai from the Hawaiian Islands,” Bromberg said. “In the middle of the set, she turned to the bass player asked him why he played bass. And he, with a straight face, said, ‘I’m telling the story of my life through my fingers.’”
When she asked Bromberg why he played guitar, he said, also with a straight face, “I figured it was the only way I would get [girls].”
Over the years, Bromberg has enjoyed playing music for himself and for his fans, but there was a time when the touring depleted the joy.
“At one point on the road for two years without coming home for as long as two weeks,” he said. “That was too much for me because all I knew that while I was out on the road, I wasn’t doing things that normal musicians do. I wasn’t practicing. I wasn’t writing and I wasn’t jamming. So I concluded I wasn’t a musician.”
To rekindle his calling as a musician, Bromberg began making violins, a craft that led to him opening the David Bromberg Fine Violins shop in Delaware.
“What fascinated me was educated violin makers can look at an instrument and can tell you when and where it was made and usually by whom,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to learn. So I went to violin making school for four years.”
After he completed his studies, Bromberg began buying and selling violins within the trade.
“I only sold violins from one shop to another, but I saw thousands of violins in the 22 years I did that,” he said. “I really enjoyed that.”
Last year, Bromberg made a deal with the Library of Congress regarding the 263 violins in his possession.
“The agreement I have with the Library of Congress is if they can raise the money to purchase one-third of the collection, I will donate the other two-thirds,” he said. “The collection is my life savings, and I would like to see them in the Library of Congress.”
In the meanwhile, Bromberg will continue to play music for his fans.
“Music moves me,” he said. “Music transports me, and that’s a unique property. It’s pretty wonderful.”
David Bromberg Quintet will perform at 8 p.m. from Thursday, Jan. 11, to Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $29 to $45. Friday and Saturday tickets range from $35 to $55. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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