A couple of years ago I received a CD in the mail with some of the finest blues guitar work I had ever heard. Slide work on National Resonator guitars that could make you weep and picking that was absolutely extraordinary were sufficient to make me think that Bob Brozman should be ranked as one of the world's top guitar players.
Latter that year I received a DVD from the same company (Ruf Records) of Bob in concert in a German nightclub. Nothing in that performance did anything to make me change my mind about his abilities except maybe to hold him in even higher esteem. The DVD also included an interview with Bob and I liked what he had to say about music and the state of the world.
By the time I watched the DVD, I had found out quite a bit more about Bob and the extent of his musical expertise. Not only was he an astounding blues guitar player, but he had also played music with musicians from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, with stops in the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Japan. I had barely heard of Reunion Island let alone known they had their own remarkable musical heritage, and yet there was Bob's smiling face looking back at me from the cover of Dig Dig.
This was the CD where he joined forces with Rene Lacaille from Reunion Island to play the music that is unique to this island in The Indian Ocean. Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Okinawa, and everywhere else it seems there was music to be played, he had been, studied and learned how to incorporate it into his music.
Eventually there comes a point where you have to decide what you are going go do with all this accumulated knowledge that will do it proper honour. Of course he had already made albums with the people who taught him the various styles of music, but what about combining all the music and the instruments into one album of music? Would it even be possible?
Well Bob's new release on Riverboat Records, his first for the World Music Network, Lumiere is as a resounding a yes to that question as you'll ever hear. Jokingly, he calls himself The Bob Brozman Orchestra, (look at the cover, all of those guys in Shriner caps are Bob) because of all the different stringed instruments he plays. But he is serious about the concept of orchestrating sound, tone, and timbre to create universal emotional experiences that can be shared by people from all the cultures he draws upon for his musical inspiration.
His description of how the album was recorded tells you all you need to know about the man's quality as a musician and an artist. For each piece (these are not songs, they are short orchestral pieces for plucked and strummed string instruments with percussion accompaniment) he would start with a literally small instrument, (the Bolivian charango, a ten stringed cousin of the ukulele is one he sites) and play an improvised solo based on the theme that had been decided for the particular piece.
If it was to be in the style of a tango like the first piece, "Tango Medzinarodny" appropriate instruments would then improvise parts in reaction to what had already been recorded. Arrangements would be created on the fly, as the parts were being played, allowing for a completely spontaneous emotional reaction on Bob's part as he played.
The way he describes the process, talking as he does about calling upon muscle memory (the idea that the muscles of the body know how to play the music without the brain's interference) makes it sound akin to a spiritual experience. While that element exists it also requires exquisite talent and years of work to achieve the level of accomplishment needed for playing an instrument to be part of the involuntary muscle structure of the body.
If anyone has any doubts about Bob Brozman's ability to carry out this seemingly impossible venture even a cursory listening to Lumiere is enough to lay them to rest. But don't just put this disc on to play in the background; it would be tantamount to insulting the creations. Each piece of music on this disc is a marvelous creation that reflects not only Bob's passion but flashes of the world's cultural soul as well.
Each piece is a magnificently crafted work of art where Bob takes the archetypical elements of familiar themes like the Tango, Ska, Calypso, Blues, and Creole to places they've never been before. But instead of it sounding unusual or odd, Hawaiian slide guitar in a Tango for instance, you wonder why it's never been done before.
I may sometimes get into a bit of a huff over the term "World Music" as I wonder why somebody else's music is called world while music in North America or England is called pop or rock and roll. But you would get no argument from me if you were to classify Bob Brozman's Orchestra Lumiere under that title because it truly is of the whole world.
I can quite honestly say that I've never heard anything close to as original and stirring as the music on Lumiere. If Bob was to be as successful in harmonizing different cultures in politics as he is in music – he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Lumiere goes on sale on July 17th and is worth every cent, centime, rupee, shekel, or whatever currency you use to purchase it with. Bob Brozman has set the standard by which we will judge all world music in the future. I guarantee you'll have never heard anything like it before, and that once you hear it you'll want to hear it over and over again.