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Interview: Bob Brozman

March 2002

Wizard Of Broz


When Bob Brozman plays solo, his actual size seems to be dwarfed by his on-stage presence. He puts out a huge sound and dazzles with his technique. He captures an audience with his showmanship.

Then a look at his encyclopaedic 120-page web site is fairly mind-boggling. Given this larger-than life presence, it's always a surprise to find the real musician quiet and meditative: the Brozman who fell in love with the sounds of resophonic steel guitar, who makes exquisite music with a dozen other players from widely disparate cultures, who puts together seminars where musicians of all abilities from all over the world gather in a "safe" atmosphere to play music all week long.

A call to his home on Santa Cruz found Brozman resting up with partner Haley Robertson before a seven-week tour here, the second so far this year in Australia.

"Most of the tour is solo," he said. "I just did two weeks with Jeff Lang in January and at the end of the two weeks we recorded an album together, which will be coming out in March. There's one week, the last week of March leading up to Byron Bay Festival, that we'll be on tour together, but the rest of it is solo dates."

During the tour, there's one day at Macquarie University for a lecture performance. Philip Hayward, head of the Department of Contemporary Music Studies there, says: "Bob was appointed an adjunct professor at Macquarie because of his interest in a diversity of music cultures and his abilities to communicate and collaborate with musicians on a deep, intuitive level. His role at Macquarie is to inspire young guitar students and researchers and collaborate with us on recording projects around the Pacific. We are hoping to go to the New Guinea islands - possibly the Duke of Yorks - early next year to record some PNG string band music."

Brozman has taken to our country so much that he is interested in citizenship. "I am quite happy to go on record and say I'm not too happy with the direction the United States has been going in the past several years," he commented. "And this association with Macquarie does make it easier to obtain citizenship and I am interested in pursuing that very much."

What is different about working with Jeff from all the other artists such a René Lacaille (Réunion) and Led Kaapana (Hawaii)?

'Well let's see. Most of my projects are involving ethnic kinds of music, non-anglophone or non American/Australian/English. And I really liked Jeff's playing. When we met [at Woodford 2001] we just had a similar aesthetic about improvising and creating music on the spot. I just thought it would be an interesting idea, I know he likes the way I play; I like the way he plays. And we met up; he came by my seminar in New York in June, and then we crossed paths again at a blues festival in Ottawa, Canada."

All these collaborations with curious, open minded, adventurous other musicians... is it an instinctual thing that sparks fly and then that's how it all starts?

"Actually, it has been mostly serendipity, and just good luck, and often it just some down to somebody thinking it would be a good idea to try something. It's been a lot of good luck that the musicians I work with all do have that thing in common of child-like sense of wonder in the most positive sense of the word, sense of humour, mastery of their own thing and willingness to try other things. And the experiences I have, of course they're different with everybody, but there are certain things about them that are quite universal…and I really enjoy the friendships that have spun out of that."

Brozman can come three-quarters of the way towards the other player, and each performance seems to be totally different because of that. He seems to be able to get into their orbit and bring the sounds to complement their music.

"That is the thing I'm interested in doing," he agreed. "I just think that making the other person feel comfortable and happy and making the music sound better in an objective sort of way, it breeds good music and good friendship."

Brozman is resting up in preparation for a big year "This is the last time I'll have off for a long, long time. And Haley and I are hard at work all month completely rebuilding our website, because I've got a lot of complicated stuff going on. And after seven weeks in Australia, I get on a plane and get off the plane the same day in England and start a tour there, and from there I go through Europe and back and forth from Europe to North America for most of the summer before I'll be home again."

I guess you don't need to sleep very much, right?

He laughs. "Mmm, I'd like to, but I don't have time!"

Bob Brozman - King of the National Guitar

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