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Jeff Moehlis: Multi-Instrumentalist David Bromberg Coming to Lobero Theatre

He promises a 'variety of good music' when his quintet performs June 23

Singer and multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg, who has quite a musical résumé, will return to the Lobero Theatre on June 23.
Singer and multi-instrumentalist David Bromberg, who has quite a musical résumé, will return to the Lobero Theatre on June 23. (L. Paul Mann / Noozhawk photo)

Singer and stringed-instrument virtuoso David Bromberg has quite a musical résumé. He got his start in the Greenwich Village folk music scene, accompanying such artists as Tom Paxton, Richie Havens and Jerry Jeff Walker.

His breakthrough (and unbilled) solo performance at the Isle of Wight Festival led to a recording contract that produced much fine music in a range of styles during the 1970s. During this time, he was also an in-demand session musician, with contributions to recordings by Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr, The Eagles and many, many more.

After a 22-year break from music, Bromberg returned to the stage and the studio. You might have caught his amazing and witty opening set for Hot Tuna at the Lobero Theatre back in 2012 — if so, or especially if not, be sure to see the David Bromberg Quintet on Thursday, June 23 at the same venue. Click here for tickets.

Bromberg talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show and a bit of his rich musical history.

 

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Jeff Moehlis: What can people look forward to at the upcoming concert?

David Bromberg: A variety of good music. If you want to know what tunes, I have no idea. We never have setlists. We do what comes to mind. After every tune I have an idea of the kind of energy I want to use for the following one, and that's how the sets get built.

JM: You took a break from performing, and in the past decade or so you've gotten back into it. Have you been enjoying your return to performing?

DB: Very much. The break was 22 years long, you know. I never said I was smart. I didn't realize that what was going on was that I was burned out. Had I realized that I would've taken a few months off. But I never believed that I could be burned out, so the only thing I believed was, "I guess I'm not a musician." So operating on that basis, I stopped for 22 years.

JM: You performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, which was a bit of a breakthrough for you. Can you tell a bit about how that all played out? I understand that you weren't originally on the program as a solo performer.

DB: I was there to accompany a singer called Rosalie Sorrels. This was what eventually became known as the last Isle of Wight Festival because the promoters lost their shirt. The reason that they lost their shirt was that parts of the audience early on broke down the fences, and came in for free. So there was no way for them to make a nickel. They wisely put the show on anyway. I don't know what would've happened had they not.

I know it's counter-intuitive, but it's also true that an audience that doesn't pay is the hardest audience to satisfy. And this audience booed a lot of very fine performers off the stage.

So I was there with a woman named Rosalie Sorrels, and Rosalie's thing at the time was really geared to an intimate setting. I remember really clearly that we followed Kris Kristofferson and his band. They were given a really rough time, but they finished their set. Partway through Rosalie's set, they started to get really restless. It was very possible that we weren't going to finish. Rosalie, when she saw the crowd was getting a little difficult, asked me to do one of my tunes, which she had never done before and never did since, you know, when I was accompanying her. I don't mind that she never did — I was there to be an accompanist. But she asked me if I would do one of my songs. The crowd loved it! And they allowed her to complete her set.

So when we got off, the promoters approached me and asked me if I would come back and perform some more at dusk, at 6 p.m. At the time, I didn't realize it, but that's the very best time to perform in an outdoor festival. So I came back at dusk and I asked them how many songs they wanted me to do, and they said, "Do an hour." I don't know that I'd ever done an hour before. I don't think that I had, but I did, and I think I got two or three encores.

But this was on Wednesday night. There was no press there. However, Columbia was recording it. Teo Macero was the guy in charge of Columbia's recording. He recommended they sign me, so they did. And, you know, I never spoke to Teo Macero, never in my life. I wish I had, because I would've loved to have thanked him.

JM: When I look at your bio, it's amazing to see all the musicians that you've played with and recorded with. Are there any that particularly stand out to you?

DB: Of course it was great to play with Dylan. And with Ringo — I got to play on a couple of his records. That was exciting. I played on Shotgun Willie with Willie Nelson — that was fun. Yeah, there were a lot of them that were really exciting and fun.

JM: What was it like working with Bob Dylan?

DB: Well, when you work with Bob you have to be ready. You don't get a whole lot of whacks at anything, so you have to figure out what's going on quickly. And I like that, so I had fun.

Click here to read the full interview with David Bromberg.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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