David Berkman: Live at Smoke (2009)
David Berkman is one of many seasoned pianists with an extensive discography who deserves wider recognition from the jazz public, though he has achieved it with his fellow musicians. Berkman has lived in New York since 1985 and has long played Smoke (as well as earlier incarnation Augie's). Since he appreciates its audiences, attentive owners and first-rate, well tuned-piano, it makes sense that he would choose the club to record a live CD.
Berkman's working quartet includes saxophonist Jimmy Greene, veteran bassist Ed Howard and the young but talented drummer Ted Poor. Berkman penned most of the music, starting with the suitably quirky "Weird Knack," which grows ominous as it progresses, followed by sauntering blues "The Mayor of Smoke" (dedicated to bassist Ugonna Okegwo, who long held fort at the club) in which Berkman and Greene engage in a tantalizing musical conversation. Berkman makes no attempt to disguise "Hidden Fondness" as being inspired by the standard "Secret Love" (particularly with his amusing choice of titling his composition), though one forgets its source as the quartet kicks into high gear. On "Along Came Betty," Benny Golson's widely-known jazz standard, the pianist works his way gradually into it in a solo setting before Howard and Poor join him, with Greene sitting out. The finale is Berkman's easygoing "Carroll Street Pop Tune," featuring Greene on soprano and an intricate solo by Howard. The recording, made by Paul Stache (one of Smoke's owners), is balanced perfectly, giving the listener the feeling of being in attendance.
Track Listing: Weird Knack; The Mayor Of Smoke; Simple Pleasures; Along Came Betty; Hidden Fondness; Carroll Street Pop Tune.
Personnel: David Berkman: piano; Jimmy Greene: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone (6); Ed Howard: bass; Ted Poor: drums.