An important figure in the folk and rock scenes from the late 1960s until his retirement from performing in the mid-1980s, David Bromberg now builds violins for a living and performs infrequently. The Player serves as a first-rate primer for those not familiar with his work, as well as a delightful reminder of how special his music was for those who were fans. Its fifteen tracks are taken from his first four albums, released from 1972 to 1975, plus a couple of live recordings not previously available on compact disc.
At the core of Bromberg’s charm is his gift for combining folk, blues, bluegrass, rock, country and jazz into one seamless whole. He also has expert ability on guitar, fiddle and mandolin, which led to admiration from a wide range of musicians. Several early ’70s big-name artists make appearances on The Player, including Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and other members of the Grateful Dead, George Harrison (who co-wrote “The Holdup” with Bromberg, perhaps his best known work), Emmylou Harris and Tracy Nelson.
One could argue that Bromberg’s flair for having famous friends led to his greater recognition, but in fact, Bromberg’s vision was revolutionary. He was probably the first folk musician to bring horns, backup singers, unison fiddles and electric guitars onstage with him. It was not unusual for a Bromberg concert to start off with four fiddles lining the front of the stage, delivering an enthusiastic run through a series of jigs and reels. The rest of the band would then kick into a full-on rockin’ roadhouse blues, followed by the sweetest version of “Mr. Bojangles” you’ve ever heard, with just David picking pretty by himself; and so on into the night until the audience was in a frenzy from such a dizzying array of music, performed with boundless energy and stellar musicianship.
Although other collections of Bromberg’s music have been available, The Player is the most impressive yet, fully capturing the early part of his career and documenting his virtuosity, eclectic nature and appreciable songwriting skills.