The difficult thing about David Berkman’s music is categorizing it. The second outing under his name cannot be pinned down to a specific line of musical tradition, musical artists, or styles. He is as much about a 21st century Brooklyn as he is about Andrew Hill and Wayne Shorter. Although this is a piano-led album, I got the feeling from the opening track “Blutocracy (Blues For Bluto)” that it was conceived from Ornette’s piano-less quartets. Even though his piano backs the rhythms, the song is an open form with drummer Brian Blade pushing the saxophone improvisation.
Like his critically lauded 1998 disc Handmade with Tom Harrell and Steve Wilson, Berkman chose top-notch musicians for his second outing. With an intact rhythm section of bassist Ugonna Okegwo and Brian Blade, Berkman has a foundation for his sound. Blade, a rising star and truly original voice, is especially suited to Berkman’s musical vision. Assembled here is a three-saxophone front line of Chris Cheek, Sam Newsome, and Steve Wilson. This rather novel approach allows for combinations of harmony, cutting, call-and-response, and soloing.
His beautiful waltz, the “Really Little Waltz,” sung by Sam Newsome’s soprano, reminds one of both Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck. He works the saxophonists like the World Saxophone Quartet or 29th Street Saxophone quartet (minus one) on the jaunty “Interesting, Perhaps, But Hardly Fascinating Rhythm” creating the highlight of the session. Berkman’s ballads are memorable too, “Remission” and “Colby” both patient and satisfying. Sometimes I heard Monk, other times Miles early writing or Herbie Hancock. If David Berkman is beyond category, it is because he is a truly original voice.
Track List:Blutocracy (Blues For Bluto); Colby; Interesting, Perhaps, But Hardly Fascinating Rhythm; Blue Poles; Communication Theory #1; Really Little Waltz; Weird Knock; Communication Theory #2; Back In The 90’s; Remission; No Crosstalk; Communication Theory #3.