David Bromberg is one of those sickeningly talented musicians who can play just about any string instrument, in just about any style. The man is best known for playing roots/Americana music on the guitar, and he’s played with Bob Dylan and George Harrison. He has quite the pedigree, and he’s playing the Oriental Theater on Saturday, March 14 so we spoke with him. D
Yellow Scene: Give us a brief history of you…
David Bromberg: Well, I was born very young. I started playing guitar when I was about 13 and had the measles. So I learned to play lying flat on my back. I eventually found my way to Greenwich Village and I worked in places that they called “basket houses,” because the owners of the places didn’t pay you – the only money you got was when people were kind enough to out it in the bread basket that you passed around. So I did that, and mostly I accompanied singers. After a while, I got hired by Tom Paxton. Then I went on the road – I was Jerry Jeff Walker’s band for a number of years. I was the full band, although occasionally we’d have other people play with us, but mostly it was just him and me. Then I got called to play with Bob Dylan – I played on three of his albums. I wrote a song with George Harrison. I started writing my own songs and performing them, and here I am. Actually, there’s more. I got burned out, and I stopped performing for 23, 24 years. I never claimed to be overly bright – what happened was it was really bothering me that I didn’t play when I was at home. I wasn’t jamming, I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t doing anything that a musician does, so I decided that I might have been a musician once but I wasn’t any more. So I stopped performing, and at the time my career was going really well. The reason was because I worked so hard. I was on the road at one point for two years without being home for two weeks. That’s going to get to you. So I went to violin making school. I had to find a way to live my life. I didn’t want to be one of these guys who drags himself on stage and does a bitter imitation of something he used to love. I was kinda curious about violins – I wanted to understand how people could know who made a violin just by looking at the outside and not referring to the (usually wrong) ticket on the inside. So that’s what I learned. Music is one of these things – nobody gets to the bottom of it. You never learn it all. So for that reason, it fascinates me.
YS: Describe the sound of what you’re doing now…
DB: Good. I have always been someone who didn’t see any reason not to play whatever music I liked. As a result, I always played a variety of styles. Almost anything I heard on guitar, I wanted to do. I started playing whatever I liked, which was commercial suicide. It’s amazing I got as far as I did. The record stores had no idea what bin to put me in. The word “Americana” hadn’t been invented yet. I was just Mr. Miscellaneous for years and I kinda liked it.
YS: Do you like playing Colorado?
DB: I’ve always enjoyed Denver. There are nice audiences there. That’s all I could ask for. I guess I could ask for more, but it wouldn’t make any sense.
YS: What are your plans for the set?
DB: I have never in my life had a set list. I have no idea what I’ll play. Hopefully, it’ll be good. It makes it more interesting for me and for the guys that I play with.
YS: When this tour’s done, what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
DB: I kind of do that the same way I do my sets. We’ll see what comes up.
The David Bromberg Quintet plays at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 14 at the Oriental Theater; 4335 W. 4th Ave., Denver; 720-420-0030; $38-$40.