“It's all about craftsmanship, intuition, and playing with heart,” explains Bryan Rombalski, this year's Best Jazz Songwriter and Best Jazz Musician Award winner at the 2011 Review Music Awards. “The music is an analogy--it's about unity, how different styles, different music can relate.” The success Rombalski has had, both solo and with his band Three Worlds, who combined have taken 15 Review Music Awards over the past five years, shows this is a winning formula.
Rombalski first expressed interest in the visual arts at the age of three, and it was at the age of eleven that he began to play guitar. To this day he credits the two years of music theory he had at Saginaw's Eisenhower High School for giving him a solid musical foundation, and he continues to be an advocate for music classes in the schools. In addition to playing music, he also teaches it at Jim Fulkerson's Music Studio in Midland.
Though Rombalski grew up in Saginaw, he spent 16 years in Toledo, OH, and one year in Chicago, IL, before returning to Mid-Michigan where he's been a resident of Midland for the past 10 years. It's there that he met the drummer Mike McHenry and the two began playing together. McHenry brought in Ed Carney, whom McHenry knew from playing in past bands. Ryan Fitzgerald joins them on bass and John Talbert on keyboards to make up the present line-up. Over the years there have been some other members and occasionally other musicians may sit in too.
Working with the same people for about six years now has been a great experience for Rombalski. “There's a real band energy now,” he explains. “A lot of people don't realize when we play how much improvisation is going on. We can read each other. When I start a song, I don't have to call it out, I can just start playing something and they pick it up.”
With Three Worlds and through his solo work, Rombalski is able to explore the things that interest him: “It's not just jazz. I love pop music, really good pop music like The Beatles, mixed with funk and jazz, and world music, especially the music of West Africa.” He also loves spoken word poetry, visual art, mythology, and studying other cultures. For him, music is an extension of all that.
In just few weeks, Two Steps Closer to Zen, Rombalski's fifth solo album will be available. He describes it as very Latin-influenced. Eddie Garcia, who did work on the Bryan Rombalski and Three Worlds album, co-produced Two Steps Closer to Zen, and Rombalski is extremely excited about how it turned out.
In the meantime, people can check Bryan Rombalski and Three Worlds out every first and third Wednesday of the month starting at 8 p.m. at Espresso Milano in Midland. They also often play at Diamond Jim's and in Traverse City. However, Rombalski likes the coffeehouse shows so that kids can come out. He says, “When I was young, we had dances. And they weren't like what you have now with DJs. It was the one place where we would go to see bands up close, and you don't really have that for young people anymore.”
For more information, check out http://www.bryanrombalskiandthreeworlds.com