Friday, October 26, 2007

Brian Bromberg Talks

It was great saying hello to bassist Brian Bromberg on Sunday, one day after his awe-inspiring performance at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Bromberg was so enthused about the festival that he came into town a day or two before his performance, and was still hanging around a day after his show.

His set, as mentioned in an earlier post, was one of the best at the fest, as far as I'm concerned, a display of solid jazz musicianship and inspired rearrangements of familiar pieces, played by a blue-chip band -- Bromberg on upright and electric bass; trumpeter Randy Brecker; saxophonist Gary Meek; keyboardist Mitch Forman; and last but not least, drummer's drummer Dave Weckl.

About a week before the fest, I did the following email "interview" with Bromberg, portions of which appeared in my story in the St. Pete Times.

1)Please tell me briefly about Downright Upright - how the project came together, and what you had in mind for this CD and this music.

Well I wanted to make a CD that was just fun and grooved hard. A real jazz recording with lots of improvisation and very little preparation. I like that kind of spontaneity when you get together with great players and just hit the record button and see what happens. On Downright Upright my goal was to make a live jazz recording that was all acoustic bass and very traditional in approach, but was not a straight ahead walking bass kind of jazz. I love funky groove tunes from the 60’s and 70’s and thought it would be great to do a CD in the vibe but to do it organically with acoustic instruments.

The other thing that I wanted to do was to give my smooth jazz musician friends a chance to really blow on a CD. It’s nice to provide an environment for these guys to show just how good there really are as players and how musical they can be. That is really rewarding for me to be able to do.

2)Tell me about the band that you're bringing to the Jazz Holiday -- the kind of chemistry you have with these players and the type of music that you'll be playing.

This band is slamming!!! Randy Brecker on trumpet, Dave Weckl on drums, Mitch Forman on piano, Gary Meek on sax, and yours truly on acoustic bass.

We will be playing the songs from the Downright Upright CD and hopefully be tearing the roof off (if there is a roof, we are playing outside!) We have a great vibe and have been playing around the world on and off for over a year now. I think we have a great blend of musicianship and personality. The playing is real, intense, virtuosic and crazy at times, but we are never too far from the groove. It is real improvised jazz that you can tap your feet to and sing along with.

3)Have you played out extensively with this particular group? Has this group played many festivals?

We have done clubs and concerts in the states and Japan. I have not been to the Clearwater Jazz Holiday before but I have heard nothing but great things about it for a long time and I am honored and thrilled to be involved in this years Festival. I will do my best that we play our!@#$%^&’s off!!

We have a west coast US tour in November and some things happening next year as well, I’m very excited about all of it!

4)What led you to play tunes as familiar as "Cantaloupe Island," "Mercy Mercy Mercy" and "Chameleon"? Were you aiming for entirely new spins on those pieces?

Well they are timeless songs that you can never get too much of, and every jazz musician on this planet knows them and have played them a zillion times! Again most of them go back to the 60’s and 70’s and have that wonderful vibe. The cool thing is that I bet there are many people that would never think I would never record those tunes, especially with all of the records that I have made of original music? It’s fun to play tunes that are that popular and everybody can relate too. On top of that those songs are just so much fun to play!

5)You're one of several bassists who have continued to redefine and expand the role of the bass in jazz. How do you view that role?

Thank you for thinking that I am one of those players. I don’t really think of it as a role, more that I just do what I do and try to do it at the highest level I can. I love the instrument and I love to push boundaries as far as I can within my ability. I look at myself as a modern player with my feet firmly planted in foundation of the past and the basics of the instrument. I love walking both sides of the line when it comes to playing the bass between the old and the new. I always play real traditional parts when I am playing the groove and behind other soloists, but when it is my turn to solo is when I really try to sing my song and tell a story. That would be when the more modern side of my bass playing comes through.

6)What sparked your interest in jazz?

It was all over my house growing up. My dad and brother were both jazz drummers so I was around it all the time. I actually played drums growing up. When you hear the greatest players in the world playing on the stereo every day and you are already a young musician, you just become a sponge and absorb it all in. Jazz is such an expressive and emotional form of music, as well as powerful. It can tug at your heart, make you smile, or get you all hot and bothered! To me there is nothing like the energy of a burning jazz group playing great. When you see it, hear it, and more importantly do it, you just can’t get enough. When you are a young jazz musician where everything you do is a new adventure, it is hard not to keep your interest up.

7)What keeps you excited about playing jazz (or playing music)?

It is my world! I love it and am so blessed to be able to play music for a living. I just want to keep growing and evolving to be the best I can be. Every time I play my basses, or write a song, or produce a recording I know that I can do it better and grow more. When you play your heart out to people and they give you the love back, that just inspires you to keep going and give it your all. I always think that every time I play my instrument I get better and learn something. I guess I am the kind of person that always tries to push myself to try and be the best I can be. Good enough is never good enough……….

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