The eclectic artist can transition from one musical genre to another without missing a beat: from bluegrass to blues, folk to jazz, and country and western to rock ‘n’ roll. Raised in Tarrytown, N.Y., Bromberg studied guitar with legendary blues and gospel artist Reverend Gary Davis. Bromberg is dexterous, playing fiddle, pedal steel guitar, acoustic and electric guitar and dobro, By the early 1970s, Bromberg was developing a knack for idiosyncratic, humorous lyrics as well as the capacity to play rhythm and lead guitar at the same time. Following a successful solo spot at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, Bromberg landed his first record deal. Columbia Records released his eponymous debut album in 1972. The LP included the mock-anguished “Suffer to Sing the Blues,” a Bromberg original that became an FM radio staple. The debut album also featured “The Holdup,” a song-writing collaboration with former Beatle George Harrison. Harrison also played slide guitar on the track.
Guests on his next two albums would include four members of the Grateful Dead, including Jerry Garcia.
Bromberg’s range of material, based in the folk and blues idioms, continually expanded with each new album to encompass bluegrass, ragtime, country and ethnic music. His touring band expanded, too, continually growing to reflect his broadening range. By the mid-’70s, the David Bromberg Big Band included horn players, a violinist and several multi-instrumentalists, including Bromberg himself.
Bromberg released a dozen albums between the ’70s and the ’90s, including “David Bromberg” (1972), “Demon in Disguise” (1972), “Wanted Dead or Alive” (1974), “Midnight on the Water” (1975), “How Late'll Ya Play ’Til?” (1976), “Reckless Abandon” (1977), “Out of the Blues: The Best of David Bromberg” (1977), “Bandit in a Bathing Suit” (1978), “My Own House” (1978), “You Should See the Rest of the Band” (1980), “Long Way from Here” (1987) and “Sideman Serenade” (1989).
Despite jubilant, loose-limbed concerts and a string of acclaimed albums on the Fantasy label, Bromberg found himself exhausted by the logistics of the music business.
“I decided to change the direction of my life,” he said in a press release promoting his new CD.
Bromberg and his artist/musician wife, Nancy Josephson, moved from Northern California to Chicago, where he attended the Kenneth Warren School of Violin Making. Though he still toured periodically, the recordings slowed to a trickle and then stopped.
Then, in 2002, the couple relocated to Wilmington, Del., where they became part of the city’s artist-in-residence program. The musician established David Bromberg Fine Violins, a retail store and repair shop for high quality instruments.
Frequent participation in the city’s weekly jam sessions helped rekindle Bromberg’s desire to make music again, as did the encouragement of fellow musicians such as Chris Hillman of The Byrds, Desert Rose Band and Flying Burrito Brothers; and bluegrass wizard Herb Pedersen.
The jams also led to the formation of Angel Band, fronted by Nancy and two other female vocalists, with Bromberg serving as an accompanist.
It was only a matter of time before Bromberg was back in the studio working on new material.
With the 2007 release of “Try Me One More Time” from Appleseed Music, Bromberg continued his musical revitalization. The album earned him a Grammy nomination and the artist found himself playing shows on his own, backed by (and supporting) Angel Band, his own David Bromberg Quartet, and even reunions of the David Bromberg Big Band.
In July 2011, Appleseed Music released Bromberg’s newest album, “Use Me,” which features collaborations with friends such as John Hiatt, Levon Helm, Los Lobos, Tim O’Brien, Vince Gill, Widespread Panic, Dr. John, Keb’ Mo’ and Linda Ronstadt.