Some jazz musicians have a knack for variety. There are those who specialize in a specific genre, but there are others who prefer to come at the listener from different directions. Saxophonist Joey Berkley is among the latter.
Berkley hails from Toronto but has made his home in New York City. In NYC, he has worked a variety of venues including The Apollo Theatre, Birdland and Radio City Music Hall. He works as a sideman, but also leads several ensembles.
Berkley's quartet is featured on More 'n Four, with Gary Deinstadt on piano, Joris Teepe on bass and Tony Jefferson on drums. Additional horn players are also part of the mix.
"Naked Flight," one of five original songs, has Berkley on tenor. The piece begins slowly, with the horn section softly responding to Berkley's lead. The intensity and amplification pick up a bit before the song shifts to Deinstadt's solo. Bass and drums stretch out as the piano goes through its paces. The horns come in briefly for a dramatic buildup. Jefferson adds more emphasis when Berkley takes over. The tenor goes through a frenetic series of rolls. The song becomes a free-for-all as Berkley is joined by three other sax players, each carving his own path.
"Unsung," another original, is a fast-paced tune that again highlights Berkley and Deinstadt. Jefferson's solo sets up a duet between himself and Berkley that precedes the closing sequence.
For a change of pace, Funkasaurus Rex features Berkley exclusively on tenor sax, and with a bigger band. On Etched in Stone, he funks up some classic soul and R&B hits.
"But It's Alright" begins the set. Seth Glassman's electric bass line is a highlight, as well as John Tropea's guitar solo. Other musicians also contribute trumpet and saxophone solos. An all-out horn section blast climaxes the song before it reverts to the primary theme.
Tropea leads the verses on the "Can't Hide Love." The horns give it an Earth Wind & Fire meets Tower of Power feel. Chris Parker's tom rolls help emphasize the bridge between chorus and verse. Bill Harris performs a David Sanborn-like alto sax solo that's punctuated heavily by bass, drums and the other horns. Chris Coogan solos on keyboard, followed by Berkley on tenor sax. After another run-through of the verse, Tropea stretches out. The rest of the band slowly transitions into the chant that closes EW&F's original recording while the guitar ad-libs.
The two releases capture two moods of Berkley: the acoustic traditionalist and the contemporary funk master.
Tracks and Personnel
More 'n Four
Tracks: Nature Boy; Push; Naked Flight; Unsung; The More I See You; The Alamo; Don't Look Down; A Peace Missing; Is There No Escape?
Personnel: Joey Berkley: tenor and soprano saxophones; Gary Deinstadt: piano; Joris Teepe: bass; Tony Jefferson: drums; Lew Soloff: trumpet; Tom Christensen: tenor sax; Larry Farrell: trombone; Chris Komer: French horn; Ed Xiques: baritone sax; Loren Stillman: alto sax.
Etched In Stone
Tracks: But It's Alright; Can't Hide Love; Tachedogbe; PMS; Samia; If I Ever Lose This Heaven; Six Beauties on a Rooftop; Mighty Love.
Personnel: Joey Berkley: tenor saxophone; Bill Harris: alto saxophone and flute; Tony Kadleck: trumpet; Brian Pareschi: trumpet; Jens Wendelboe: trombone; Chris Coogan: piano and keyboards; John Tropea: guitar; Seth Glassman: bass; Chris Parker: drums and percussion.
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