Juneau audiences had an opportunity to experience the many facets of famous roots musician Dave Bromberg Friday night: Bromberg as bluesman, folk singer, balladier and country crooner. Judging from the way the crowd leapt to its feet in a standing ovation at the end of the show, those facets sparkled brightly for his listeners.
Bromberg’s performance at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall kicked off the 28th annual Juneau Jazz & Classics festival, which runs daily through May 17. Bromberg started out with a handful of tunes from his new album, “Only Slightly Mad” (see album review in this week’s Arts), beginning the evening on a bluesy note. He then launched into a cover of George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care,” followed by a brand-new original inspired by listening to Jones, Merle Haggard and Conway Twitty on the road with his band.
In between songs, Bromberg engaged his audience with self-deprecating humor and personal stories about lost love and foolish choices, particularly on the band’s cover of Sam Cooke’s classic “Bring It On Home to Me.”
Bromberg was joined on stage by four musicians who added another kind of depth to the show: guitarist and mandolin player Mark Cosgrove, fiddle and mandolin player Nate Grower, drummer Joshua Kanusky and bass player Robert “Butch” Amiot. Amiot has played with Bromberg for more than 30 years. Remarkable instrumental work included Cosgrove’s solo performance of “Alabama Jubilee” on acoustic guitar and Cosgrove and Grower’s mandolin and fiddle solos, respectively, on the last song, “New Lee Highway Blues,” from Bromberg’s 1974 release “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Grower, whose heels often left the stage as he poured his energy into his instrument, is the band’s youngest member and current Delaware State Fiddle Champion. As Grower played, Bromberg often watched him with a grin, sharing the audiences’ pleasure in listening to him perform.
Bromberg himself began his career as a backing player, performing with musicians including Tom Paxton and Jerry Jeff Walker. He went on to work on hundreds of recordings by artists including Bob Dylan, The Eagles and Willie Nelson. His solo career took off in the 1970s, following the release of his self-titled debut album in 1971. By the 1980s, he had stepped away from life on the road and gradually stopped recording, opening a violin and stringed instrument shop. Decades later, Bromberg returned to the studio with “Try Me One More Time,” released in 2007 and nominated for a Grammy. That was followed by “Use Me” in 2011 and “Only Slightly Mad” in 2013. Friday night’s performance included a mix of songs from his early work in the 1970s and others from the new album, both originals and covers.
For an encore, the band stepped off the stage and played “Roll On John” on the floor with no microphones in front of the audience to end the evening on an intimate tone. Juneau music fans, who last week enjoyed a performance by Chick Corea and Béla Fleck, should be feeling pretty lucky right about now. And Jazz & Classics is just getting started, with two full weeks of music still ahead.
Coming up next: Strings at the Shrine with the Attacca String Quartet and Paul Rosenthal at 4 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Shrine of St. Therese. And on Monday, two free performances by the Attacca String Quartet: a Brown Bag concert at noon at the State Office Building, and a 5:30 p.m. concert at the Alaskan Brewing Co.‚s Downtown Depot.
Check out the full schedule at www.jazzandclassics.org.