Thanks to a great Christmas present from my Son Adam, Elisa and I went to see David Bromberg perform on Friday, February 26 at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We’ve both seen Bromberg several times over the years, but since he started touring the northeast with his Big Band, we have been going to see that show when it comes to The Egg in Albany New York. We were both looking forward to seeing him in a more intimate setting.
Bromberg opened with one of my favorites tunes from 1973’s Midnight on the Water, Summer Wages. The tune, penned by Ian Tyson (of Ian and Sylvia fame), included an additional verse that doesn’t appear on any version I’ve ever heard except for Bromberg’s. Joined by Delaware guitar sensation John Lippincott and veteran reed player John Payne, Bromberg’s quartet was in great form. Anchored by Butch Amiot’s solid bass playing, multi-instrumentalist Mitch Corbin and fiddler Nate Grower were given ample opportunity to display their considerable talents. Whether Nate Grower was filling in for long-time quartet member Jeff Wisor or has replaced him is not clear to me, but Bromberg did mention that it was only Nate’s second concert with the quartet. Every solo he played was a pleasant surprise. Summer Wages was followed by Hot Corn/Cold Corn, and then one of Bromberg’s trademark “she done me wrong” blues tunes.
Bessie Smith’s You’ve Been a Good Old Wagen was a pleasant surprise, and was followed by the bluegrass standard Dark Hollow (also off of 1973’s seminal Bromberg album, Midnight on the Water). A beautiful instrumental version of Over the Rainbow and a fiddle tune (Yankee’s Revenge?) with a bass clarinet (courtesy of John Payne) dueling with three mandolins, was followed by After Our Last Date. At this point the band, except for David and Butch, left the stage and he played To Know Her is To Love Her.
With the band back on stage, Bromberg finished off the set with Drown in My Own Tears, What a Wonderful World, and Sharon. For the encore, Bromberg played two tunes , his classic Will Not Be Your Fool (from How Late’ll You Play ‘Til) and the David Wiffin penned tune, Drivin’ Wheel, which David has been playing at least since 1970, when Tom Rush recorded a version of it with Bromberg on dobro.
Elisa and I first saw Bromberg perform in a circus tent in Florence Italy in 1979. It’s sometime difficult to compare one concert to another, and they are each special in their own way. I’ve seen David play a show at the now defunct Nightstage in Cambridge and have to deal with a power outage. We’ve seen him at the Iron Horse in Northhampton, where a temporary problem with the sound system prompted him to pick up his fiddle and play tableside on the second floor balcony until the PA was repaired. We’ve seen his big band several times in Albany and once at the Orpheum in Boston. I’ve been lucky enough to see him share a stage with John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful and to see him play in a festival setting at a ski area in Ashby Massachusetts. For me, Friday’s show in Cambridge ranks as the best of the lot, due to the quality of playing from all the members in the quartet and particularly due to the contributions of guitarist John Lippincott and Saxophone/Clarinet/Flute virtuoso John Payne. Bromberg played on a Martin M-42 and a Martin D-45 (or D-42) about half the time, and on a Telecaster fitted with humbucker pickups for the other half. John Lippincott primarily played a Telecaster but also played acoustic guitar some of the time. John Payne played saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and flute. The whole “six-piece quartet,” often accompanied by the vocalists from the Angel Band, played with fire. It was a great night for music.
Paul Rishell and Annie Raines opened up the show with a brief set of the tasteful acoustic blues that they are so well known for here in New England. I had the pleasure of seeing them several years ago as the feature at an open mike I played at, and I’m a big fan of both Paul’s fingerstyle blues guitar and Annie’s blues harmonica playing. They opened with a song that I think is titled Before You Give it All Away, then did a really nice version of Blind Willie McTell’s Honey It Must Be Love. After that, they played It’ll Be Me, a Kink’s tune called Good Luck Charm, and then they wrapped it up with their signature tune, Away From Here. It was a great way to open the show.
The Angel Band, with their wonderful three-part harmonies, took the stage next. Kathleen Weber, Bromberg’s wife Nancy Josephson, and relative newcomer Aly Paige were backed by Bromberg, Mark Moss (drums, guitar, and Mandolin), Bob Tayor (bass) and fiddler Nate Grower and mandolin player Mitch Corbin.
Their set began with I’ll Sing this Song for You, from their 2007 album, With Roots & Wings. Later in their set they did a very nice version of We’re All in the Same Boat Now, and followed it with I Feel Lucky, and then Hope is on the Way, a song they wrote and recorded to help raise money for the relief effort in Haiti (YouTube video here). Guitarist John Lippincott and reed player John Payne joined the band for their last tune, and, as mentioned before, sat in with the David Bromberg Quartet as well.
Thanks Adam! What a great show!!!
The David Bromberg Quartet
With Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, and The Angel Band opening.
8:00 pm, February 26, 2010
First Parish Church, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts