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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.

This program of sensual ballads gives the Shelly Berg Trio plenty of room to express deep feelings about the music and about how jazz has given each member a long and fruitful career doing what he loves. Each solos frequently and passionately, but with subdued emphasis. A ballad caress needn't be amplified or swung hard. The meaning becomes clearer when an audience is given the chance to absorb it gradually. Here, the pianist, bassist, and drummer set these wheels in motion naturally. Romance and lyrical passion occupy the front seats by default.

Berg pounds out "I Hear a Rhapsody" with the enthusiasm that he's been recognized for on previous recordings and in live appearances. Long known as a powerful swinger and forceful driver, he can't help making a lasting impression.

The remainder of the session, however, is devoted to tender interpretations that sizzle underneath the surface. Berg ensures that each melodic phrase is woven seamlessly through the trio's interpretations. He uses up every ounce of strength available in his thorough treatment of a song but restrains the urge to shout it out loudly. Instead, the pianist and his partners find a quiet release for their tales. The listener, of course, is free to add an "Amen" or a "Yeah" as often as he sees fit. It's that kind of a listening experience.

Even Berg's "Hot it Up," though framed within a forceful, hard bop landscape, shows up somewhat quiet and decidedly cool. It's a chance to sit back and enjoy without being overwhelmed by the force of the music. Blackbird ranks as Berg's best recording thus far and comes highly recommended. His "Julia" closes the album with a slow and romantic appreciation for the natural direction that acoustic ballads should always come to us: from the heart.


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.

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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