David Broza releases his first all-instrumental album

Titled David Broza En Casa Limón, it’s a modern tribute to the art of Spanish guitar.

David Broza: You have to teach yourself in a disciplinary way how to compose music without words-not just one song, but an album's worth.   (photo credit: LORENZ SCHMIDLE)
David Broza: You have to teach yourself in a disciplinary way how to compose music without words-not just one song, but an album's worth.
(photo credit: LORENZ SCHMIDLE)
It might seem strange to those who have been listening to his nimble six-string rhapsodies for the last four decades, but David Broza has never considered himself to be a guitarist.
“I never looked at myself as a guitarist, rather as an accompanist for my songs as a singer/songwriter, said the 65-year-old Broza, last week in a phone conversation with The Jerusalem Post.
That self-perception has finally realigned itself with the Israeli legend’s worldwide reputation as an accomplished, lightning-fast picker, thanks to this month’s release of his first entirely instrumental album.
Titled David Broza En Casa Limón, it’s a modern tribute to the art of Spanish guitar, featuring elements of flamenco, baroque, swing and classical music performed with Broza’s trademark combination of gusto and finesse.
Recorded in the Madrid studio of famed Spanish producer Javier Limón, the album features Broza playing flamenco guitars last used by the late master Paco de Lucía, – a development, along with long hours of practice, that he says enabled him to up his game.
“I didn’t just get in the studio and play, I had to really work to get to that level. I played eight hours a day for four months in preparation for going in to the studio,” said Broza.
“Then when I got to Javier’s studio, I noticed these guitar cases in the corner, and he said ‘open them up, they’re the last guitars that Paco ever played. Why don’t you try playing with them?’”
 Alluding to his very physical style of playing, Broza responded, ‘I can’t, I will kill these delicate guitars.’
“But Javier reassured me, ‘no you won’t, you play too well to kill them.’
“In the end, I felt so comfortable, I ended up playing 11 of the 12 pieces on the album on those guitars.
That created a sound for my playing that I had never heard before.
Because I know my guitar so well, I know what to expect. I’m one of those people who don’t like hearing their own singing or playing, I hear all the faults. In this case, I couldn’t believe it was me.”
Throughout his illustrious career, Broza has regularly referenced Spanish music, which he became familiar with when his family moved from Israel to Madrid when he was 12. However, it was far from an instant love affair.
“I wasn’t at all enchanted by Spanish music. First of all, I was into painting, not music. Second of all, we left Israel literally a month after the Six Day War, when the whole country was in a euphoric mood.
I was transported to a place that spoke a language I never heard before, and I immediately put up an armor and went to war against anything to do with Spain,” said Broza.
“When I did get into music during my teens, I listened to Hendrix, The Band, Otis Redding, and Israeli rock like Arik Einstein and Kaveret. I never listened to Spanish music. By the time I was 17, I had a couple cool Spanish friends who introduced me to some good singer/songwriters.”
When Broza returned to Israel at 18 for his army service, he brought back those Spanish albums as a souvenir of his time in Spain, and only then did he start listening in earnest.
“I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do in the army, which was combat, and I was stuck at a shin gimmel (front gate of a base). I was very miserable and missing Spain, even though I was glad to be back in Israel,” he said.
“So I started listening to those albums, and that led me to Paco De Lucia.
When I began to play guitar, I learned Spanish and Cuban songs, and that’s when it really started getting into my bones and blood.
And 45 years later, here I am dedicating an entire album to the Spanish guitar.”
During those 45 years, though, Broza has become a household name in Israel, as well as a respected musical figure throughout the US, where he spends about half his time.
His signature 1977 tune “Yihye Tov” has been adopted as the unofficial Israeli peace anthem, and he can boast more than 40 albums to his name, with songs in English, Hebrew and Spanish. In 2007, Broza recorded and filmed a sunrise concert at Masada, which became an annual tradition. The performance featured guests Shawn Colvin and Jackson Browne and was screened as a PBS special in the US.
Despite the diversity and acclaim, Broza has always returned to his love of Spanish music. But it took the prodding of an outside party to convince him to record David Broza En Casa Limón – Steve Greenberg, the American president of S-Curve Records and a producer and collaborator of Broza’s, most notably 2010’s acclaimed Night Dawn: The Unpublished Poetry of Townes Van Zandt and the even-more heralded 2013 album East Jerusalem West Jerusalem, featuring Israeli and Palestinian musicians (featuring alt-country great Steve Earle).
“For years, maybe my first 30 years performing, I was very shy and instead of talking between songs, I would doodle on the guitar. People would come up sometimes and say, ‘you should really record these pieces, we would love to just hear you play.’ And I would always say ‘good idea, but find someone else to do that,’” said Broza.
“Then a couple years ago, Steve Greenberg, one of the most respected and successful music executives in the business, called me and said, ‘You know, Broza, in my album collection – and I’ve got a big one, including a lot of Israeli artists – there’s one thing missing: an instrumental album by David Broza.’”
Broza entertained the idea and started writing songs without lyrics, which he said isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“You have to teach yourself in a disciplinary way how to compose music without words – not just one song, but an album’s worth,” he said.
After Broza had an album’s worth of songs, and Greenberg’s pledge to distribute the album, Broza, upon the advice of his wife Nili, contacted Javier, who had produced his 2006 album Parking Completo.
“We hadn’t been in touch in a while, but when I texted him, he responded, ‘I really miss you’ so that was a good start. He said he hadn’t produced an album since Paco died in 2014, but then he said, ‘you know what, your guitar playing is so different, send me the stuff.’ So that’s how it started and how I ended up going to Madrid for a week last year to record the album at his Casa Limon studio.”
Limon, in the liner notes to the album, wrote: “David is one of the few artists with whom I would embark on any adventure with my eyes closed. Fortunately, this was not just any adventure, but the most beautiful and profound journey ever made to the roots of the most popular and beloved instrument on the planet: the Spanish guitar.”
Broza, who has been forced to remain in New York since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, is finding novel ways to promote the album – including an online show earlier this month at the Bowery Electric.
“It was amazing – the map of the audience tuning in was from all over the place – including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, from Argentina to Chile, and from Tel Aviv, of course,” he said.
“It hasn’t been easy the last few months. I’m used to being in Israel for 10-12 days a month for about the last 30 years, and I’m really longing for that routine. On the other hand, I’ve been able to take advantage of the situation by having time to write more music, which is a blessing, and practicing five or six hours a day.”
Because, remember, as far he’s concerned, Broza is just learning how to play the guitar.