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David Broza: En Casa Limón
by George Graham
(S-Curve Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 10/28/2020)
The popular stereotype of a singer-songwriter is an acoustic-guitar strummer uses his or her instrument mainly as backing to the lyrics of the songs. But there are some guitar-playing singer-songwriters whose playing is notable in its own right. Late last year, we spotlighted an all-instrumental album by veteran Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, an academically trained musician who has usually included one or two instrumental tracks on his albums, and has previously released another instrumental recording. This week, we have another fine acoustic guitar instrumental album from a veteran singer-songwriter, David Broza, whose new release is called En Casa Limón his first all-instrumental album in a career that extends from 1977 and spans close to 30 releases.
David Broza is an artist with an international career, having spent his childhood in Israel, and currently living there. At age 12, his family moved to Madrid, where took in the music scene, absorbing the Spanish guitar tradition. To this day, even on his singer-songwriter recordings, his instrument is the Spanish-style nylon-string acoustic guitar. Over his career, he has released albums in both English and Hebrew, and spent 17 years living in New Jersey, and collaborated with American musicians, including Jackson Brown, Steve Earle, and the late Townes Van Zandt, who bequeathed to Broza a number of sets of lyrics for Broza to set to music, which he released as an album in 2010. He is also known for his activism, collaborating with Palestinian musicians, and was appointed a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.
Broza writes that after many years of having fans ask why he did not do an instrumental album, he was inspired to do so, after a similar request from the head of the independent record label for whom he records. So the 65-year-old artist went back to his time in Spain and his love for Spanish guitar, and recorded in Spain with producer Javier Limón, and hence the title En Casa Limón.
Not surprisingly flamenco is a strong influence on the album, but it’s wide ranging in musical scope, with some American folk influence, some jazz and swing, hints of classical, including a string quartet on one track, Latin American, even a little Celtic. Broza is joined by a small group of supporting musicians, with the personnel varying by track. Among the regulars are bassist Dany Noel and percussionist Israel Suarez, known as Piraña. A notable guest is jazz trumpet great Randy Brecker, who appears on one piece.
Opening is a track called Guitar Confessions which shows the Spanish influence in a jazzy context. It’s an impressive piece that spotlights Broza’s fine guitar work, and eclectic stylistic mix. <<>>
A piece called Tom’s Song is another interesting combination, with folk, classical and hints of Middle Eastern influence. It features a wordless vocal by Delfina Cheb. <<>>
One of the more joyful-sounding tunes on the album is Saturday Morning Jig which features a recorder played by Tali Rubinstein, that sounds like an Irish pennywhistle. <<>>
A track called Burlería brings in handclaps and hints of flamenco dancing, as performed by percussionist Piraña on the cajón instrument. <<>>
Quite different in direction is a piece called I’ll Never Ride a Horse Again which hints at country music and swing, with some folky finger-picking. It’s a nice departure. <<>>
Recorder player Tali Rubinstein makes another appearance on a distinctive track called Así Mi Corazón which combines a lot of influences in a pleasing kind of musical polyglot. <<>>
Jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker makes his appearance on Flor en Masada #3. Brecker fits in nicely with the Spanish and Latin musical setting. <<>>
Broza said he was inspired by the unrest in Spain’s Catalonia region to compose the track Tears for Barcelona. The melancholy piece features the string quartet.
Israeli-based international singer-songwriter David Broza’s new album, En Casa Limón, is his first all instrumental album in a 43-year recording career. Known for his songs of social consciousness, Broza concentrates on the instrument he has been using for most of his career, the Spanish-style nylon-string acoustic guitar to create a thoroughly enjoyable, stylistically varied recording on which flamenco is one of the main influences, but by no means the only. His playing is outstanding, and the material is impressive in way it brings together the various musical ingredients, while the arrangements remain tastefully understated.
Our grade for sound quality is an A-minus, with the guitar having a warm, natural sound, but as is so often the case, the recording was volume-compressed to crank up the loudness, and thus loses some of the expressiveness and dynamics of the performances.
Although David Broza is probably better known outside the US as a singer-songwriter, his career has brought his music to this country. Now on his new release, his guitar playing gets the spotlight, and the result is outstanding listening.
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