Pianist Betha Hope has certainly been a late bloomer. Long story short, this imaginative pianist was married to the equally inventive piano man Elmo Hope. Her talents, however, would largely remain dormant for most of the '60s and '70s, apart from the few duets with her husband that were heard on a mid-'60s Riverside date. It wouldn't be until after Elmo had prematurely passed on and she was done raising the kids that Bertha would return to the performing arena. Hooking up with the Danish SteepleChase label, Hope's first recording would be 1990's In Search of Hope, followed the next year by Elmo's Fire and then in 1992 with the Minor Music release, Between Two Kings. As such, and hard as it is to believe, Nothin' But Love turns out to be Hope's first-ever domestic release.
Working with her long-time associates, bassist Walter Booker and drummer Jimmy Cobb, Bertha endows us with a truly divergent set of ten pieces and dons a melancholy mood, perhaps suggestive of beautiful memories from the past. Recalling her childhood, Hope's wispy vocals render a poignant version of the traditional "Balm in Gilead." Husband Elmo's "Moon Over Marrakesh" is wisely included and the self-penned "Gone to See T" serves as an admonition of the greatness of Thelonious Monk, although its oddly displaced melody also tips a nod in the direction of Herbie Nichols.
Hope's style, a bit hard to verbalize, owes much to men like her husband, Monk, and Nichols. There's nothing predictable about it at all. She favors dark harmonies and pointed phrases that avoid the obvious and yet have a resounding brilliance that makes her playing, at times, simply mesmerizing. She can also hit those bebop changes as apparent on "Leslie." This George Braith original based on the changes of "Confirmation" also sports a catchy opening vamp of the "Salt Peanuts" variety. Booker and Cobb get their dibs in too, the former doing a good deal of bowed work throughout and the latter contributing a lucent display on "Prayer For Sun Ra."
A deceptively simple line built off of a major sixth, the closing "Nothin' But Love" succinctly brings to a close this extraordinary piano trio set that shimmers with Hope's love of music and willingness to fully share of her talents with her fellow musicians and audience.
Track Listing: Book's Bok, Mia, Leslie, Stars Over Marrakesh, Balm in Gilead, Super 80, Ojos De Rojo, Prayer For Sun Ra, Gone to See T, Nothin' But Love (54:18)
Personnel: Bertha Hope- piano, vocal (tracks 5 & 10 only); Walter Booker- bass; Jimmy Cobb- drums
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds
I love jazz because I was born and raised here in America, and it is one of the most significant cultural contributions we have given to the world. It is an incredibly sophisticated artform that continues to challenge boundaries while delighting and engaging listeners of all different ages and backgrounds. I love how jazz can involve musicians who may have never met each other can coming together and making incredible music by referring to the Great American Songbook and musicians who have been playing together for years, who have a deep connection and who explore and create original music that is at the cutting edge of musical innovation in every sense. Performing jazz music requires a virtuosity and technique that only strict discipline can teach as well as a spontaneity and playfulness that reflects the simple folk roots of the music.
I was first exposed to jazz as a student in college. Only knowing I wanted to play guitar, I enrolled in an applied music program that focused on Jazz rhythm section playing. The subsequent journey that I have been on since the time that I enrolled in that class has helped me grow not only as a musician but more so as a person.