While there are plenty of multi-instrumentalists and plenty of multi-national players, it's a rare thing indeed to find a multi-national multi-instrumentalist. What surprises me is that I can actually name two of them off the top of my head. I'm sure most of the world has heard of Ry Cooder by now, but what about Bob Brozman?
On his last release, Lumiere Bob played more than thirty different stringed and plucked instruments (from as far away as the Solomon Islands) including a National Baritone tri-cone resonator guitar that he designed and built with the National Guitar company in the United States.
Bob doesn't just have instruments from all over the world, he's been to those places as well, to learn, teach, and record music with some of the most interesting and best musicians in the world. On Lumiere he put all of that experience to work. The entire CD was made up of compositions that he improvised in the studio while recording. He would start with one instrument, lay down a basic melody or rhythm, then proceed to build layers around, on top, behind, and under the original with other stringed and percussion instruments. The finished results were nothing short of extraordinary and some of the most exciting music I'd heard in a long time.
Periodically Bob comes home to the music that resonator guitars were made to play, American blues. While I know there are others who play resonators, John Hammond for instance plays a beat up old National, only Bob has gone to the lengths of not only designing and building unique guitars like the Baritone mentioned above, but resonator mandolins and ukuleles as well. His latest blues album, Post Industrial Blues on Thomas Ruf's love affair with the Blues called Ruf Records, sees him armed with his full complement of resonators, and he also brings in friends from around the world to help out.
From India comes the 22 string Chaturangui and the 14 string Gandharvi; Greece contributes the baglama, from the Japanese island of Okinawa comes the sanshin; and from a little closer to home, he uses the Hawaiian ukulele. For someone else they might not sound like typical instruments to bring into the studio when recording a blues album, but Bob likes to keep his options open. Hell he's as liable to use found objects for percussion as anything else – just check out what he's used on this album: a knife blade tapped on a table (these are actual credits), broken grass clippers, and a broken toy piano.