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Shelly Berg: Blackbird (2005)

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Shelly Berg: Blackbird How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

It's evident from the first track that Blackbird is a superior trio release, as classy and swinging as they ever get. Seasoned with brilliance and sprinkled with wit, this recording is artfully paced and nicely balanced between ballads and burners—all of which is immediately obvious. What emerges only later, after reaching for the CD again and again, is that this music is truly universal: all-encompassing and satisfying, it works in all kinds of moods, and for all kinds of occasions.

For instance, while Blackbird is ideal for relaxing, it also supplies the perfect sonic motivation for bouncing around the house, should that be your desire (or need). The jazz is sophisticated enough to impress the pickiest critic, but melodic enough to engage the greenest neophyte. The set list includes ivy-covered classics as well as contemporary tunes—Beatles, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder—and the trio's take on "Estate" may be the best I've ever heard; somehow Berg's elegant, flowing solo manages to be playful even as it builds. The closer is the achingly lovely "Julia" that Berg wrote for his wife, a tune so loving and intimate that he wasn't permitted to share it with the world, not at first.

Fortunately, now we have it. In fact, the world could use more of what's in every track on this CD: true musical excellence, filled with heart and light. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: All My Tomorrows; Estate; Blackbird; I Hear a Rhapsody; Question and Answer; A Flower is a Lovesome Thing; All the Things You Are; Hot it Up; Blame it on the Sun; She's Always a Woman; If I Should Lose You; Julia.

Personnel: Shelly Berg: piano; Chuck Berghofer: bass; Gregg Field: drums.

Record Label: Concord Music Group

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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