Born in July 1943 into a well-to-do family on Chicago's North Side, the young Bloomfield found himself being drawn in his later teens to the blues clubs of the South and East Sides of the city where he began to be exposed to some of the older experienced blues players, many of whom had arrived in the city during the migration of past decades of black workers from the South. The early years of the sixties were a key turning point for the blues as the earlier country-rooted music was being appropriated by younger players eager to fit the music into the electrified forms that newer audiences were being excited by. Michael found himself at the epicentre of what was happening and sought to play with, and to learn from, many of the older men who frequented the clubs. This notion of Bloomfield as musical student was one that remained with him all his tragically short life.
Bloomfield was excited by a wide range of musical genres, taking in ragtime, country and electric blues, R& B, jazz, spirituals and even hymns, and he was motivated to learn about their history and inter-connectedness. In his later years his concerts were likely to feature aspects of many of these, and this Best Of collection certainly reflects this. Tracks 1 and 7 are drawn from 1963 field recordings by Norman Dayron at his own Fickle Pickle club featuring him accompanying Little Brother Montgomery (many more of these recordings can be found on Takoma Blues CDTAK 8907 on this website). On these recordings Michael first teamed up with Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop who were to play with him soon after on the ground breaking first two Paul Butterfield Blues Band albums that culminated with the track ‘East-West’ that helped make Michael's name.
Bloomfield the able soloist is represented here by three seventies tracks: ‘Frankie And Johnny’, ‘Mr Johnson And Mr Dunn’ and the oh-so-gentle ‘Effinonna Rag’. All of these demonstrate his acoustic playing, and the range of influences he was drawing from. By contrast ‘Your Friends’, ‘Between The Hard Place And The Ground’ and ‘Orphan's Blues’ all feature him in a 1979 band context that includes his piano sideman Mark Naftalin from the Butterfield Band days. Track 5 ‘Hitch Hike On The Possum Trot Line’ is a fine extended 1971 link with the Woody Herman band that not only demonstrates Herman's well-documented musical open-mindedness but Bloomfield's ability to fit so well into a different context. More late-seventies small combo outings come with the moody ‘The Gospel Truth’ and the slow closing track ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ both of which utilise Michael's talents on other instruments, while the latest track here is the brooding sax-filled ‘Papa-Mama-Rompah-Stompah’ from 1980. With sheer quality and variety colliding the term tour-de-force is totally appropriate, and we hope that this compilation will attract more listeners to the man's fine music.