More than five decades into his career, David Bromberg is still finding things to get excited about. At the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair on Friday, one of those things was his opening act, Matt Arons. “You couldn’t have enjoyed that half as much as I did,” said Bromberg after the two performed John Herald’s “Stewball” together.
Arons, a senior at Montclair High School, described Bromberg — who also performs at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank on Oct. 4 — as his mentor and a kindred spirit. Arons also sat in on Bromberg numbers such as “Helpless Blues” and “Roll On, John,” adding to the considerable instrumental firepower already onstage.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Bromberg performed at this show — a benefit for the Outpost itself — with his quintet, featuring fiddler Nate Grower and guitarist Mark Cosgrove. All three are virtuosos, and many songs featured solos by all of them, sometimes on different instruments than their main ones. During one dazzling instrumental number, they all played mandolin.
Bromberg moved easily from blues to folk and bluegrass throughout the evening, and showcased some songs from his upcoming album The Blues, the Whole Blues, and Nothing But the Blues (due out in mid-October), including Bessie Smith’s “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon (But Daddy, You Done Broke Down),” “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Round?” and the title track. Bromberg may not have a truly distinctive style, but he has a specialty: songs about failed relationships and cheating that allow him to vent in a theatrical and sometimes funny way.
The show peaked with the reflective ballad “Diamond Lil,” featuring a long solo from Grower and a segment during which Bromberg and Cosgrove faced each other — Bromberg on acoustic guitar and Cosgrove on electric — and traded riffs, each one echoing and building on the last. Bromberg, once again, looked absolutely delighted.
Arons, who also performed with Joe Walsh when the MHS alumnus returned to the school for a benefit concert last year, was actually more impressive in his opening set than he was when he joined Bromberg later. He sang with soulful purity and executed complex acoustic guitar riffs with ease. Like Bromberg, he played in a variety of rootsy styles; his setlist ranged from Buck Owens’ “Together Again” to Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and the folk standard “Take This Hammer.” Bromberg joined him for his last number, a duet on Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
Bromberg, who turned 71 on Sept. 19, presents a concert titled “David Bromberg’s Big Band Bucket List Birthday Bash,” also featuring Tom Rush, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. Visit countbasietheatre.org.
Here are some YouTube videos of Bromberg and Arons performing in Montclair: