David Bromberg remembers Paul Siebel

We went to see David Bromberg and his excellent band perform at the Dakota last night. The place was packed for Bromberg’s terrific show (and he’s back again tonight). I last saw him at the Dakota almost exactly three years ago with the same band. I don’t think he played a single number from that memorable show.

After the opening number of his two-hour set last night Bromberg announced that his friend Paul Siebel had died that morning. He was visibly saddened as he talked about Siebel’s death. “I played with him for 50 years,” he said, even though (according to Bromberg) Siebel was afflicted with stage fright that shortened his career. I can’t piece the story together or find a single obituary of Siebel today.

Bromberg’s work with Siebel led to Siebel’s recording contract with Elektra in 1970. Woodsmoke and Oranges was his first album, with Bromberg lending his instrumental support. Bonnie Raitt was one among many artists who covered songs from that album, as she did with Siebel’s “Louise” in 1977.

Last night Bromberg played four songs written by Siebel, only two of which he had previously recorded. This was live music at its best. He can’t have been thinking he would play those numbers before he learned of Siebel’s death earlier in the day, can he? Each one was freighted with the emotion of the moment. Among the four numbers was Siebel’s “Long Afternoons.” Bromberg clearly loved it and performed it lovingly. “No need to explain how I feel about her.” RIP.

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