You’ve reached a Premium article. To continue reading, please login or start a 3-MONTH TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION for just 99 cents/month. You’ll receive unlimited digital access plus a complimentary issue of our award-winning print magazine.
Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.
Bassist Brian Bromberg already had a 20-plus-year recording career by 2002, the year he increased his name recognition by releasing Jaco, his Jaco Pastorius tribute.Its cover, a black-and-white shot of Bromberg that mimicked the photo of Pastorius on his self-titled 1976 solo debut, may have come across as audacious. Yet any perceived infamy was erased by its contents, which included stirring performances and new arrangements of classics the late bassist once recorded as a solo artist and with Weather Report.“Jaco’s playing changed my world,” Bromberg says by phone from Reading, Pennsylvania, in-between early-April performances at the Berks Jazz Festival. “His tribute was one of the hardest records I’ve done. It was supposed to feature several different famous bassists, but every one of them bailed. So I was asked to make it my album by default. Which was akin to trying to copy Mozart, but I’m very proud of it.”In the 20 years since Jaco, Bromberg’s solo releases have further highlighted his capabilities on electric fretted, fretless and piccolo basses, plus acoustic upright instruments, across genres from traditional and smooth jazz to fusion and beyond. In July, Bromberg will be reissuing a selection of titles from his catalog: three trio releases with drummer Akira Jimbo and keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz, Brombo I (2003), Brombo II (2004) and Brombo III (2017); his unaccompanied upright album Hands (2009); and the classically themed A Bass Odyssey (2015).“Those initially came out on King Records in Japan, and I retained the rights for them,” Bromberg explains. “It seems like the perfect time to get them out here, where most people have never had the opportunity to hear them. Susumu Morikawa was executive producer for a lot of these releases and brings unusual project ideas to me. Jaco, Hands and A Bass Odyssey were all records I never would’ve thought of.”The live-in-the-studio trio releases feature original compositions by Bromberg and Jimbo, and acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes embellishments by Ruiz, whose credits include John McLaughlin and Arturo Sandoval. The three also offer interpretations of music ranging from John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to The Beatles, The Eagles and Sting.“Akira isn’t just an excellent drummer,” Bromberg says, “but also a great songwriter; very musical, with great chord changes and melodies. And Otmaro is a complete virtuoso from Venezuela, so he brings that extra Latin element.”The 18 tracks on Hands run the gamut from standards (“Stella By Starlight,” “In a Sentimental Mood”) to Led Zeppelin and The Police to The Pink Panther and The Flintstones themes. “I was so intimidated at the thought of that [solo-bass] record that I couldn’t start it for six months,” says Bromberg. “But once I started recording, all live, the challenge became fun.”A Bass Odyssey features Bromberg exclusively on pieces like “Swan Lake,” “Beethoven’s 5th,” “Bolero” and “Mothra Theme.” “I’m the drummer, bassist, programmer and guitarist,” he says, “except the guitar sounds are piccolo bass.” Born in Tucson, Arizona, the 61-year-old Bromberg followed in the footsteps of his drummer father before taking up acoustic upright bass in junior high school. He didn’t play electric bass until his late teens, while working with saxophonist Stan Getz. “Stan asked me if I played electric bass,” Bromberg says. “And I said yes, even though I didn’t. I was an upright purist going to see Charles Mingus, who was born in Nogales, Arizona, 50 miles away. He was the mind-blowing total package of composer, arranger and bassist.”Bromberg’s latest release is last year’s contemporary A Little Driving Music (Artistry Music/Mack Avenue), but his near-future plans include a possible tribute to another of his upright heroes.“Susumu is seeing if there’s enough of a Japanese market for a Scott LaFaro tribute,” Bromberg says. “I’m working toward my own next record, but LaFaro took melodic, lyrical soloing to a new level with the Bill Evans Trio, so I’d love that challenge.” — Bill Meredith
Featured photo by Raj Naik.