How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Joel Frahm’s second Palmetto release again features the fabulous pianist David Berkman, who contributed four of the album’s 10 tracks. Scott Colley and Billy Drummond lay down the rhythm on this terrific set, which also includes four of Frahm’s originals, a no-frills "My One and Only Love," and a soul-style tune by Matt Wilson titled "Hymn for Don Cherry."
Frahm’s tenor sound is big, his improvisations aggressive and content-rich. Berkman outranks him as a composer, however. Only a superior writer could come up with the tension-filled unison lines of "Ants" and "Gradually, I Inserted Myself Into the Conversation," and the open, mid-tempo vistas of "White Bear Speaks" and "The Shoko Dance." Frahm’s Wayne Shorter tribute, "Fort Wayne," is diminished by its somewhat obvious "Speak No Evil" vibe. On the other hand, his fast minor blues line "The Navigator" sizzles with rhythmic invention, while "Shards" and "Sister Julie," respectively, illustrate his abilities as a free jazzer and a crafter of almost pop-like songs.
With this record, it becomes even clearer that Frahm and Berkman have developed one of the most inspired creative relationships in jazz. Of course Colley and Drummond, whose credentials are beyond dispute, add tremendously to this music. But wouldn’t a Frahm/Berkman duo album be a treat?