The Blindfold Test with Brian Bromberg


Brian Bromberg

(Photo: Courtesy

Brian Bromberg, Arizona-born but long California-based, has often resided in smooth jazz circles. But the bassist, now 60, sports a hefty discography under his own name and as a sideman, one covering a wide variety of jazz situations, from accompanying Stan Getz and Diana Krall to Bromberg’s tribute albums to three J’s: Jaco, Jimi and Jobim. Quarantining on his rambling property in Ojai, the idyllic town north of Los Angeles, Bromberg focused his creative energies on three distance-tracking album projects during the past year, the newest being A Little Driving Music (Mack Avenue). For Bromberg’s first Blindfold Test, we met on the patio for grass-fed beef burgers on the grill and an eight-course menu of tune-spinning.

Brecker Brothers
“Slang” (Out Of The Loop, GRP, 1994) Randy Brecker, trumpet; Michael Brecker, tenor saxophone; James Genus, bass, Steve Jordan, drums.
Randy Brecker on trumpet, but not playing Randy Brecker licks. I’ve been playing with Randy forever. I’ve known him since I was 17. He’s on a bunch of my records. We’ve done a ton of gigs all over the world together. What year was this recorded? Randy has changed a lot since then. Randy got so overshadowed by his brother, which is kind of sad for me because Randy deserves the recognition. Randy’s a badass who changed the world. Who’s on bass? OK. Sounds great. He had a different approach to his notes. That’s why I couldn’t pick him out, but it feels fantastic. If that came out now, it would be still really fresh.

John Scofield
“Radio” (Swallow Tales, ECM, 2020), Scofield, guitar; Steve Swallow, electric bass; Bill Stewart, drums.
Scofield. It’s not just his lines, which are really inside-outside. He’s one of these guys who changes our serving suggestions. It’s not just his phrasing, it’s how much weight is on every note. Everything’s behind the beat in the right way. You know, there’s so much weight in his notes because it’s on the backside, but it’s all feel, it’s all vibe — besides the fact that, harmonically, he just does all this cool shit. The bass player? Couldn’t even tell you. [afterwards] Steve, he is a great cat. The first time I saw him play was a long, long time ago. And he used to play only upright. And then he switched to electric bass and he played with a pick. At first, I was just like, “What, are you gonna join Quiet Riot or something?” And then you hear him play, and it was just like, wow. He’s a really fluid player.

Chris Potter Circuit Trio
“Serpentine” (Sunrise Reprise, Edition, 2021) Potter, tenor saxophone; James Francies, keyboards; Eric Harland, drums.
This is a new recording, with a retro sound. The saxophonist reminds me of a few different cats, but he’s a monster. I’ll get myself in trouble to start giving your names. Chris Potter, Bill Evans ... Yeah, [Potter] is ridiculous. It’s impossible to not hear Michael Brecker in him. But his approach to that is natural, obviously different than Brecker’s. But who plays like that since Brecker, with that kind of fluidity and ownership of his instrument?

Super Bass
“Mack The Knife” (SuperBass, Telarc, 1997) Ray Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride, acoustic bass.
For years, Ron Carter and Buster Williams did that thing together, where Ron played the higher-pitched upright bass [piccolo bass]. They would do a lot of stuff like this, but I’m thinking more John Clayton and Christian McBride [pauses] and, well, it’s probably Ray. Ray, as we politely say, is a fucking freight train. All these guys are great. They all came from the Ray Brown school. So here’s the guru and then here’s the offspring. Christian’s like the next Ray Brown except with more chops, more facility, and same with Clayton. Ray was it. He was undeniable.

Weather Report
“Punk Jazz” (Mr. Gone, Columbia, 1977) Jaco Pastorius, bass; Tony Williams, drums; Wayne Shorter, saxophone; Joe Zawinul, keyboard.
It’s Weather Report. Joe Zawinul’s presence on stage was so powerful. The thing about innovators is that it’s not what they play, but how they play it. One note made him sound so different from everybody else. [Regarding Bromberg’s Pastorius tribute album] I’m not trying to be Jaco. I knew Jaco. We used to hang out, and we played. And, you know, he was the first electric bass player that even got me to take electric bass seriously. I was totally an upright guy.

“Inferno” (Drunk, 2017) Thundercat a.k.a. Stephen Bruner, bass; Flying Lotus, production and programming; Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, strings; Dennis Hamm, keyboards.
I would have no idea who this is … Thundercat, OK. Very inventive. Very creative. Harmonically, it’s phenomenal. And it’s weird, reminds me of ’70s experimental rock music. It’s the same inside-outside weird stuff, but harmonically, it’s really deep. That’s awesome.

Marc Johnson
“For A Thousand Years” (The Sound Of Summer Running, Verve, 1998) Johnson, bass; Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, guitar; Joey Baron, drums.
I hear Bill Frisell and Pet Metheny in there. Bass is tough. It doesn’t sound like Eddie Gomez, but I hear Gomez’s influence there. Intonation-wise, it reminds me of Gary Peacock. [afterwards] Marc is the reason I got the Stan Getz gig when I was 18. He recommended me. Marc is really a lyrical cat. The Bill Evans band with Marc and Joe LaBarbera was fantastic. Since Bill passed, Marc didn’t get the recognition he deserves. He’s the real deal, and he opened the door for me to have the career that I have.

Marcus Miller
“Keep ’em Runnin’” (Laid Black, Blue Note, 2018) Miller, electric bass.
That’s Marcus Miller. Obviously, he’s incredibly well-respected and a star, but there’s a whole group of his followers that have no idea how much of a bad-ass he really is, how deep he is as a musician. He’s very underrated as a fretless player, because it doesn’t sound like Marcus Miller, because he’s not doing this jazz bass slap. I don’t think people get the depth of his artistry. DB

The “Blindfold Test” is a listening test that challenges the featured artist to discuss and identify the music and musicians who performed on selected recordings. The artist is then asked to rate each tune using a 5-star system. No information is given to the artist prior to the test.

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