Happy Birthday to Brian Bromberg – born December 5, 1960
Brian Bromberg is an American jazz bassist and record producer who performs on both electric and acoustic instruments. Though he tends to gravitate towards the genre of smooth jazz, Bromberg has released some straight-ahead jazz records in which he performs with a trio, and has even ventured into more rock-oriented jazz fusion territory as of late. His innovative and technically demanding style of playing extends to both electric and upright bass. On his acoustic bass albums, Bromberg performs jazzy interpretations of various pop and rock staples from the 1960s and ’70s completely solo. Regarding his work with electric bass, Bromberg, among other bassists, helped popularize the piccolo bass, or bass with each string tuned an octave up, by releasing several albums in which he plays both the bass line and melody. For instance, upon first listen many will be surprised to learn that, although soaring guitar can be heard throughout the album, Bromberg’s 2005 release Metal contains only Bromberg on two overdubbed basses, one of which is heavily effects-laden to make it sound like an electric guitar.
Releases as a solo artist
Bromberg’s first several albums were of the smooth jazz variety. He began with two records that caught smooth jazz radio’s attention: A New Day in 1986 and Basses Loaded in 1988. His third effort, 1989’s Magic Rain “became the most played album on radio during the first week of its release”. Bromberg’s fourth record, BASSically Speaking, which is technically his oldest material re-mastered with some new additions, went top 5 on the radio charts and reached 7th on the Billboard sales charts.
At this point, Bromberg had a solid following among smooth jazz fans, which caused him to want to shift gears a little and put out a straight ahead jazz record. His fifth release was the aptly named, It’s About Time, The Acoustic Project. This is an all-acoustic jazz record that reached number four on the mainstream jazz charts in 1991. Here, Bromberg is content with a trio that includes Freddie Hubbard and Ernie Watts. The warm tone of Bromberg’s upright bass is very present in the mix, but never reaches a point where it infringes on the other instruments’ space.
After It’s About Time, The Acoustic Project Bromberg returned to making more modern smooth jazz music. His next record, Brian Bromberg (1993), was unsuccessful because the label endorsing it went out of business the week of its release.
In 1996, after a short break from recording to design basses for Peavey and touring as a clinician, Bromberg signed with Zebra records. He recorded what many consider to be his greatest smooth jazz album. In February 1998, Bromberg released You Know That Feeling The release featured Bromberg surrounded by other notables in the smooth jazz genre such as Rick Braun, Joe Sample, Jeff Lorber, and Everette Harp. The album became Bromberg’s most successful, later to be topped by Wood, and his first smooth jazz number one record of his career. You know that feeling had three singles in a row that each went to number three on the charts. It Spent seventeen consecutive months on the charts, eight months in the top ten, nearly six months in the top five. Bromberg’s CD was the fifth most-played CD from the top 100 CDs of the year in smooth jazz. Pieces from You Know That Feeling are still regularly played in smooth jazz stations across America. Additionally, in 2003, Bromberg made a record simply titled Jaco in which he performs many of Jaco Pastorius’ notable pieces.
However, after You Know That Feeling, some of Bromberg’s newer releases have stylistically deviated from his smooth jazz roots. 2002’s Wood, produced by a Japanese label, features straight-ahead acoustic jazz playing, much like It’s About Time…, but this time with pianist Randy Waldman and brother David on drums. However, Wood along with its 2005 follow-up, Wood 2, contains jazz renditions of pieces that other artists in his field would not touch. Songs such as Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son” and Paul McCartney’s “Let ‘Em In” are tackled by Bromberg alone. One may think that the solo tracks would feel empty when played by only one instrumentalist. However, on these tracks, Bromberg showcases all of his techniques, such as tapping on the upright bass and his ability to play two- and three-note chords on demand, and musical ability to sound often like four players at once, having his 300-year-old Matteo Guersam Italian upright bass digest the rock pieces and spit them out with jazz flavoring that does not completely alter their original feel. Other than the strictly solo pieces, Wood (recorded in 24/96 at Mad Hatter Studios in Los Angeles) and Wood 2 (the latter featuring drummer Vinnie Colaiuta in place of David Bromberg) contain the trio’s interpretations of various pieces from other jazz composers such as Wayne Shorter and Woody Herman.
On an even sharper turn away from his smooth jazz past, Bromberg released 2005’s Metal, which featured Bromberg on bass, Bromberg on a heavily altered piccolo bass made to sound exactly like a guitar, and drummer Joel Taylor. Bromberg uses the entire album to display his modern rock riff writing abilities, as well as his knack for soloing over them. Fans of Bromberg’s technical side will not be disappointed here. The entire album contains furiously rapid-fire solos that successfully compete with the most accomplished guitar players today.
As a producer, Bromberg has produced eight top-ten hits, seven top-five hits and two number-one hits to date. Apart from his 300-year-old double bass, he uses Dean, Bob Mick, Mick Donner and Peavey basses with Epifani amplification. He also owns a signature edition Carvin bass.
A New Day (1986)
Basses Loaded (1988)
Magic Rain (1989)
BASSically Speaking (1990)
It’s About Time: The Acoustic Project (1991)
Brian Bromberg (1993)
You Know That Feeling (1997)
Brombo! Jb Project (2003)
Bass Freak Out (2004)
Wood II (2006)
Downright Upright (2007)
It Is What It Is (2009)
Bromberg Plays Hendrix (2010)
Compared To That (2012)
In the Spirit of Jobin (2012)
Full Circle (2016)
Thicker Than Water (2018)