Follow your ears

Guitarist extraordinaire Bob Brozman possesses the keen ability to transform an acoustic, solo act into a plucking, strumming, foot-tapping, singing, energetic musical spectacle with some anthropologic humor mixed in.

"My whole technical rig is one microphone, so I'm doing everything with movement — how I touch the instrument and approach the microphone," says Brozman. "The longer I've been doing this, the more preoccupied I become with sounds rather than notes and chords."

Brozman was voted Best World Guitarist in Guitar Player Magazine's 2010 Readers' Choice Awards as well as Best Acoustic Slide Guitarist in Acoustic Guitar Magazine's 2009 Players' Choice Awards.

Besides being a master of slide, fingerstyle and percussive guitar, Brozman has a comprehensive knowledge of diverse world music traditions, which he will present in concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 4th St., Ashland.

Brozman, who is as intellectual as he is musical, first began studying music and ethnomusicology at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. His particular interest was in the cultural and rhythmic aspects of music. For more than 30 years, he invested his time and energy into traveling and exploring musical traditions of other cultures and understanding global migrations of various musical styles. His studies and music have taken him to more than 60 countries worldwide, where he learned the timbres and harmonies of Indian, African, Japanese/Okinawan, Hawaiian and Caribbean music, to name a few.

With about 193 countries in the world, "there are plenty left to cover," says Brozman, who recently returned from a three-month stint in Europe.

The diligent guitarist estimates he tours about 11 months a year and has done so for the past 30 years. His tours frequently take him to remote corners of the world, such as Réunion, an island east of Madagascar, where he set about learning the country's root sounds from locals.

"I keep following my ears around the world," he says.

In addition to nearly 15 solo albums, Brozman has released at least another 15 collaborative albums, featuring native musicians from Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Greece, Japan, India, Réunion, Australia and, most recently, Ireland.

When it comes to learning new styles of music, Brozman goes straight to the source. He says he arrives with no preconceptions and is not afraid of being told he's doing it wrong.

"I'm trying to serve the music and make the other musicians happy during the process," he says.

Brozman also keeps a collection of more than two dozen guitars and world instruments. His Ashland performance will feature his signature National resonator guitar as well as more exotic stringed instruments, such as a lap steel guitar (or Hawaiian guitar); a baritone guitar; a 10-string, Bolivian charango; a ukulele, a cajón and a 22-string, Indian slide guitar.

"I play anything with strings that doesn't use a bow," says Brozman.

In addition to Friday's concert, Brozman will offer a guitar workshop, "Blues, Open Tunings, Rhythm, Slide and Improvisation," for intermediate to experienced guitarists at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Unitarian Fellowship. The hands-on workshop will explore principles and techniques for understanding blues music.

The workshop costs $40. Tickets to Friday's concert are $20 in advance; $22 at the door; $10 for ages 12 to 17; and free for children ages 12 and younger. Tickets are available at Music Coop in Ashland, online at www.stclairevents.com or by calling 541-535-3562.

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