Bob Brozman Orchestra

Lumiere [Riverboat]

Gracing the cover of Bob Brozman’s latest album is a photo of 27 instrument-bearing bespectacled and bearded men attired in white suits and funny hats emblazoned with the names of various countries. The instruments include acoustic and resonator guitars, baritone guitars, Indian Chaturangui and Gandharvi guitars, Hawaiian guitars, hualaycho, baglama, charango, kantele, cajon, marimba, and bongos—and upon closer examination, all those bearded “orchestra” members turn out to be Brozman himself. Besides providing amusing cover artwork, the photo perfectly embodies the album’s musical content and the methodology of its creation. You see, Brozman plays nearly every instrument on this heavily multi-tracked masterpiece, and although each of the dozen songs sounds fully composed and arranged, they all began as improvisations arising from “muscle memories” acquired throughout a lifetime of immersion in musical styles and traditions from throughout the globe.

There is something more than a little familiar about the music on Lumiere—yet with the exception of one traditional piece (“Aloha Laie”), the compositions are entirely original and essentially cliché free. They cleverly weave together strains of Hawaiian, blues, tango, Gypsy, calypso, Indian, Caribbean, Turkish, Bolivian, and West African elements, resulting in a truly “world” music that means more than simply music from some part of the world other than where one lives. For all of its compositional and stylistic headiness, however, it is the emotional enthusiasm and playfulness that really puts these songs over. And, of course, Brozman’s playing is impeccable throughout.