Resophonic Guitar Visionary and World/Blues Musician Bob Brozman Dies at 59

Bob Brozman - Photo by Ali Madjdi
Bob Brozman – Photo by Ali Madjdi
American guitarist and ethnomusicologist Bob Brozman was found dead at his home in Ben Lomond (Santa Cruz County, California) in the evening of April 23rd. Details about the cause are unknown. He was 59 years old.

Bob Brozman was born in New York in 1954. He was involved in music since early childhood. A guitarist since age 6, Mr. Brozman discovered National resophonic guitars at age 13. In their unique sound, the young Bob found his musical calling. He studied music and ethnomusicology at Washington University with a focus on the earliest roots of Delta blues. He became a respected authority on historical Hawaiian music, publishing articles and put together a large collection of 78rpm records. He produced five re-issue albums from this collection on the Rounder and Folklyric labels, documenting the best of Hawaiian music from 1915 to 1935.

Bob Brozman - Photo by Ali Madjdi
Bob Brozman – Photo by Ali Madjdi
In 1988, Bob Brozman rediscovered the legendary 1929 Hawaiian recording artists, the Tau Moe Family. Together they recorded a landmark album, Remembering The Songs Of Our Youth, a historic re-creation of the family’s genuine Hawaiian music from 60 years prior. The album was released in 1989 to rave international reviews, including the Library of Congress Select List Award. With National endowment of the Arts funding, Mr. Brozman began production of a feature-length documentary film about the Moe family and their amazing 54-year-long world tour.

Over the years, Mr. Brozman’s passion for National Guitars led him to build a large collection of these attractive art-deco era instruments. After receiving a letter from the then-88-year-old inventor John Dopyera, Mr. Brozman visited and became good friends with John and his family. This led to further research, and in 1993 Mr. Brozman’s massive work The History And Artistry Of National Resonator Instruments was published internationally. He has also written for several music magazines concerning historical and instructional subjects.

In 2001 he released Nankuru Naisa (Riverboat Records ) with Okinawan vocalist and sanshin maestro Takashi Hirayasu as well as an array of guest musicians Los Lobos’s David Hidalgo.

Mahima, a collaboration with Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya came out in 2003. On Mahima the two guitarists explored the blues, Hawaiian and Indian music. The album also featured vocalist Sutapa Bhattacharya and tabla master Subhashis Bhattacharya.

Mr. Brozman’s 2005 release Songs of the Volcano (CD/DVD) documented his two journeys to Papua New Guinea in 2003 and 2004, when he recorded with 60 musicians from five string bands.

Bob Brozman - Photo by Ali Madjdi
Bob Brozman – Photo by Ali Madjdi
In 2007 he released Lumière, an album featuring the Bob Brozman Orchestra – a unique concept where Mr. Brozman intricately played each instrumental part, building layer upon layer to formulate the tremendous sound of an extensive orchestra. He revisited the influences drawn from previous collaborations with artists such as Debashish Bhattacharya, René Lacaille, Djeli Moussa Diawara and Takashi Hirayasu to reflect on the profound effect travel had on his life.

Bob Brozman teamed up with John McSherry and Dónal O’Connor on Six Days In Down (2010). In this project, Brozman fused his characteristic guitar sound with Irish music, featuring the uilleann pipes played by virtuoso John McSherry and the fiddle, played by maestro Dónal O’Connor. The album also featured vocalist Stephanie Makem.

Mr. Brozman’s deep knowledge of musical history and arranging enabled him to create large band arrangements and direct music for film, radio, television, and stage. His rhythmic style featured elements of blues, jazz, Gypsy swing, calypso, and even the most modern beats. His chords and harmonies were a blend of timbres from Hawaiian, Indian, African, Japanese/Okinawan, Caribbean, and American roots.

Bob is beloved to me, and to so many in so many countries,” says longtime friend and pianist, George Winston. “His legacy will live on and will no doubt become the standard-bearer to musical innovators for decades to come.”

His most recent record was last year’s Fire in the Mind, a blues album with a diversity of new and old stringed instruments, including instruments not normally used for blues.

Mr. Brozman is survived by his wife and partner of 15 years, Haley Sage Robertson Brozman, daughter Zoe Brozman, 20, and brothers in New York City along with a large international community of friends and fans. It is their desire to carry out Bob’s vision in the creation of a foundation to help third-world musicians obtain the musical basics that western musicians take for granted,

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


18 thoughts on “Resophonic Guitar Visionary and World/Blues Musician Bob Brozman Dies at 59”

  1. I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear this awful news. R.I.P Bob.

    I do feel very fortunate to have met the man and seen him play numerous times on his recent visits Down Under. My deepest sympathy goes to his family and close friends. He will be sorely missed, but the music will live on forever.

  2. I have very fond and funny memories of Bob backstage at Womadelaide with Lucky Oceans (of Asleep at the Wheel fame) and Seth Jordan, a noted world music aficionado now living in Australia. They were having a grand old time reflecting on how three Jewish boys from the USA could wind up in Adelaide on a hot summer’s day. Lots of laughter, lots of reminiscing, and lots of genuine love for music. That is how I remember Bob. So sad he has gone. He was a force of nature and a great champion of world music in all its diversity.

  3. Irreparable loss to the world music. A great master of slide guitar. A musician who joined musicians from many different countries to create a new music, creative music, and music so beautiful…universal music:
    Bob & Ledward Kaapana …
    Bob & Takashi Hirayasu …
    Bob & Debashish Bhattacharya …
    Bob & Subhashis Bhattacharya …
    Bob & Sutapa Bhattacharya …
    Bob & Djeli Moussa Diawara …
    Bob & René Lacaille …
    Bob & Cyril Pahinui …
    Bob & George Kahumoku …
    Bob & Woody Mann …
    Bob & Mike Auldridge …
    Bob & David Grisman …
    Bob & Jeff Lang …
    Bob & The Tau Moe Family …
    Bob & John McSherry …
    Bob & Dónal O’Connor … and many other musicians…

    Bob Brozman, the ambassador of the music world, so young, leaving this world sadder.
    However, Bob is immortal through his own music and albums.
    Aloha, eternal grandmaster! I love you!

    Carlos Fiorelli

  4. I live in a remote part of Australia and bought a guitar from National guitar unseen. I emailed Bob from the address on his website asking advice on which guitar to buy. He actually took the time out to get back to me with advice on which guitar to buy. Great guitarist and obviously great guy.

  5. I remember Bob a few years back, during a ukelele workshop in The Hague (Netherlands). He was great, completely absorbed in his music, almost forgot about the workshop. A truely great musician

    Max Rozenboom, Delft

  6. Adieu grand musicien, inspiration perpétuelle qui a changé la vie de milliers d’amateurs de guitare et de musique.

  7. Very sad to hear about Bob’s passing. I saw him perform a few times at Whitby and WOMAD in the UK. A very inspiring musician, his take on life, politics and everything rung true with me. He once signed a CD for me when I asked him to some up his philosophy in 5 words, he wrote: “Life is short. Be kind”. I’ll treasure that.
    Thanks Bob, for some wonderful music, funny anecdotes, and for being one of the good guys. xxx

  8. Today I am very saddened to hear about Bob’s death.

    Bob was a direct influence on me, through our association with the Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra. We spent many hours together in the early 80’s. He showed me a whole lot about life and music.

    In January of 2012 I recorded two tracks with him at his place in Ben Lomond.
    As usual he played great and showed no mercy. I look forward to getting those tracks mixed and into shape, for posterity.

    Bob, man, you were/are one of a kind. Thanks for sharing your time and talents with me. You did so much with the time you had. The world is a better place because of you…….Markos

    I won’t ever forget your musicianship or your spirit.

  9. This is very sad news indeed.

    Lovely man. Glorious musician. Always willing to chat.

    We’ve lost a real treasure.

  10. I was lucky enough to see Cyril Pahinui play last night. He dedicated a song to Bob. Beautiful. Bob will be missed.

  11. I was greatly saddened and shocked by the news of Bob’s death. I probably have most of his recordings, music and guitar DVDs, most of which I bought after seeing him live at a small venue in the north of England just a few years ago. It was very small, and I was a little late – so I had to sit on the edge of the stage, practically at his feet. What a great experience to hear him play that night. He was very friendly and started a conversation with me in the interval. I shall continue to listen to his music, and maybe learn some guitar, for the rest of my time.

  12. We had the good fortune of following Bob Brozman around a Thredbo music festival some years ago. His sets with Jeff. Lang were truly inspiring. Along with his gregarious nature and his graciousness I will remember a trademark trick whereby, early in a gig, he would throw his guitar in the air, spinning it around, and when he regained it, continuing to play as though nothing had happened. It was sleight of hand. Last saw him in Brisbane in 2011. RIP.

  13. It’s always sad when someone so talented and universally known passes on. I can listen to his music for hours. He truly was passionate about what he did.

  14. Dear Bob….Mahalo for all the mele. You are on both sides now. We will miss your charm and talent….It was great to do a radio show in your honor some time back @KVMR. When you played with Led…..Bless You!

  15. Vale Bob Brozman. I was shocked to hear the sad news of Bob’s death. I had the great good fortune of meeting Bob in Brisbane in 2010 and again in 2011. He was a very generous and patient man and his workshops were just wonderful. An inspiring musician…you will be missed Bob…

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