In a day and age of recording over-saturation, most covering too much ground over the course of a 70-plus minute CD, Bergman’s Meditations for Piano remains focused on a massaging mood established from note one to the final minute-and-half “Meditation 7,” all in under 50 very digestible minutes.
Influenced early on by Lennie Tristano, Bud Powell, Monk, and the classical works of Charles Ives, Bergman has unjustifiably been compartmentalized as a Cecil Taylor-esque player. Comfortable playing melodies and right-hand parts with his left hand, as well as a convincing use of a unique cross-handed style, he is one of the most ambidextrous pianists you will come across. Sparsely recorded, Bergman mostly can be heard on busy solo sessions or heavyweight duos (with reedmen Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann and Thomas Chapin, and percussionists Andrew Cyrille and Hamid Drake).
The seven original compositions for solo piano (“Meditations 1-7”) are approximately each seven minutes in length (with the exception of the first and last much shorter pieces, and the extended near-13 minute “Meditation 2”). Bergman uses cantorial songs and chants as inspirational launching material into exquisitely played ballads that patiently suggest both the work of Bill Evans and classical pianist Glenn Gould. Each note lingers into space in near-hypnotic fashion but with a complex harmonic underpinning as if he were patiently discovering the appropriate note to follow the one previous. He remains true to the distant melodies and harmonic structure of each meditation, some performed last month at Brecht Forum during a rare appearance Bergman gave with violinist Mat Maneri and drummer Dee Pop.
This is Borah Bergman like you’ve never heard before, or perhaps the long awaited introduction to the 70-year-old improvisational dynamo whose new contribution to Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series will allow you to learn the patience needed in digesting his other perhaps more frenetic (“smoking out bop” in Dee Pop’s words), though no less extraordinary and beautiful, recordings. Treat this as Bergman in slo-mo.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Personnel: Borah Bergman - piano.