Cornetist Josh Berman is no stranger to the improvised music scene. He not only leads his own bandsJosh Berman's Old Idea and Josh Berman and His Ganghe has played with some major improvisers including Bill Dixon
, Ken Vandermark
and Ab Baars. Berman goes beyond performance in his involvement as co- founder of the Umbrella Music Group and the co-curator and vice president of the Emerging Improvisers Organization.
Berman is a thinker, an approach that pays rich dividends in his music. He posts his pedestal through changes of timbre and pulse, envisaging direction and then fertilizing it with his imagination. What emerges is a score of sonic brilliance. The textures are colored by his band, in the tinkling of the vibraphone, the bracing thrust of the tenor sax, the pacing of the bass and the angular beat of the drum.
Surprise is one of the keynotes of the record. A composition can rise with one form and then cast off to find its body in another. It all starts out "On Account of a Hat" where vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz
and bassist Anton Hatwich hold a gentle conversation. Berman swings by, pauses and then opens out a whole new land of adventure, shooting phrases, investing a melody into the fold, letting the inherent seed of the song flower. Tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson
powers the grain without overwhelming it, in contrast to the sparkle of Adasiewicz and the rhythm of drummer Nori Tanuka, who turns the beat around with his enticing sense of rhythm.
The measure of the band is seen in the way they give their language eloquence. "Almost Love" is a beautiful ballad and stays within the confines of the theme. Enveloped in gentle folds and sparked by luminous playing, the band makes the narrative unforgettable. Intersecting lines are the pathway for "What Can" before they dissolve into symmetry. Form coalesces on the sprightly manifestations of the vibraphone only to be cut loose by Berman who fires tensile, brassy lines.
Berman is invigorating on his maiden voyage as leader. And all that can do is augur well for an exciting future.
Personnel: Josh Berman: cornet; Keefe Jackson: tenor saxophone; Jason Adasiewicz:
vibraphone; Anton Hatwich: bass; Nori Tanaka: drums.