David Bromberg is a musicians’ musician. His prolific career spans five-and-a-half decades. He has played with the likes of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jerry Garcia, Carly Simon, The Grateful Dead, Phoebe Snow and his extensive discography is as impressive as the artists with whom he’s supported and collaborated.
And, now, finally, he's coming to Taos. The David Bromberg Quintet will perform Friday (Jan.19) at 7:30 p.m. in the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
Mike Russo is the tour manager for the David Bromberg Quintet. Bromberg, the “Americana godfather” and fearless leader of the quintet, is old enough to be Russo’s grandfather and wise enough to choose Russo to take care of the logistics for their current multi-state tour.
Russo said they are excited to visit Taos for the first time and talked about how he comes from Philadelphia, Pa., where “the tallest structures are man-made, and create a misconception that we are kings of the castle. The beautiful tall mountains of Taos are a potent reminder that we are not in control.” The band is also in search of the perfect huevos rancheros and hope to find the ultimate plate of the New Mexican favorite in Taos.
Bromberg was mentored in the early days by the legendary blues guitarist Reverend Gary Davis, who claimed him as a son. Bromberg is the rare combination of balance in life and a mastery of multiple musical stylings and stringed instruments including guitar, fiddle, dobro and mandolin.
In 2007, Bromberg released his first new studio album since the ‘90s, titled “Try Me One More Time.” The next year, the album was nominated as the Best Traditional Folk Album at the 50th annual Grammy Awards. His 2011 album “Use Me” features guests Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Tim O’Brien, Dr. John, Keb’ Mo,’ Los Lobos, Widespread Panic, Linda Ronstadt and Vince Gill.
He is a creative survivor of a sometimes brutal industry that treats artists like commodities and encourages lifestyle choices that lead to burnout and depression. Russo said, these days, that one could tell what kind of show they’re at by “whether the audience is taking photos of the stage, or taking selfies with the stage in the background, saying they were there.” He continued “If someone asked Bromberg at age 72 how to do this forever, his answer would be he keeps finding ways to surprise himself and his audiences. If your joy comes from playing, you can do it forever.”
Bromberg took time off at the height of his career to find his balance. According to previous interviews about dropping out of the music business from 1980 to 2002, Bromberg said he was afraid of becoming “an imitation of doing something he used to love.” “I thought I wasn’t a musician. I got burnt out. I’m afraid I was too dumb to realize it was burn out. I could’ve taken a few nights off and come back ...” The time off wasn’t unproductive for Bromberg, though, and it allowed him to learn how to make violins, and more importantly, get good at it. He opened a now thriving violin shop in Wilmington, Delaware where he resides. “You have to learn things one by one, the same way you learn songs.”
The quintet will be playing some old and some new. According to Kanusky, the quintet’s drummer, “our set list changes every night, we rarely repeat anything, our repertoire is vast.” Bromberg’s latest album “The Blues, the Whole Blues, and Nothing But the Blues,” is his first release from Red House Records. Bromberg collaborated on the album with multi-Grammy-winning producer/accompanist Larry Campbell who has worked with Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, and Paul Simon. Together, they built an album that focused around the music of Bromberg’s high school days, when, according to Bromberg’s website, “He was introduced to a friend’s dad’s collection of blues 78s. He’d only just taken up the guitar as a means to pass the time while in bed with the measles.”
“I loved those 78s so much,” said Bromberg, “I taped them on a portable reel-to-reel, so I could listen at home and learn.”
Bromberg’s band members include Butch Amiot on bass, Josh Kanusky on drums, Mark Cosgrove playing guitar, Nate Grower on fiddle, and Peter Ecklund on cornet. Kanusky said that touring with the band is a dream. Bromberg believes in family time and “a solid home life” so the tour is split up in a way that musicians are on the road and at home in equal intervals. When asked about the kind of show that the people of Taos should expect on Friday night, Russo said people always “come out smiling.”
“Blues music has heavy themes, and yet there is this joyful music supporting heavy lyrics. It is cathartic for the audience,” he said. “There seems to be a collective sigh of recognition and a two-hour respite from the constant bombardment.”
Tickets are $37 and available at the auditorium box office or by visiting https://holdmyticket.com/event/299485. For more information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052.