All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

231

Jeff Berlin: Lumpy Jazz

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
You have to really love the bass to enjoy Jeff Berlin's latest offering, Lumpy Jazz. Solos abound at every turn, his electric bass is up in the mix when keyboardist Richard Drexler is taking the spotlight, and even on "Toot's Suite," which features a guest spot by harmonica player Toots Thielmans, Berlin's sound dominates.

That said, Berlin is one of the true heroes of the electric bass, an intrepid player who emerged around the same time as Jaco Pastorius, yet didn't fall, as so many bassists did, under the larger influence of Pastorius' approach. Less influenced by soul music than progressive rock and jazz, Berlin's muscular yet nimble approach has graced records by drummer Bill Bruford and guitarist Allan Holdsworth, while he has toured extensively with artists including Yes, John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham. Lumpy Jazz is only his sixth record as a leader in a career that spans nearly thirty years, and it demonstrates that the bass can indeed be a dominant solo instrument, not just one that gets the occasional solo on an album dominated by more traditional instruments.

His most pared-down recording to date, featuring only percussionist Danny Gottlieb and Drexler (plus the one guest appearance by Thielmans), the album concentrates less on arrangement and more on the pure joy of playing. The set opens with the lyrical "Brooklyn Uncompromised," a nod, no doubt, to Pat Metheny's "Missouri Uncompromised." With Drexler doubling on acoustic bass, as he does on a couple of tracks on the record, Berlin is free to be the primary melodic instrument, soloing with an uncommon legato style that is also filled with rich chordal work. "My Happy Kids" is a more straightforward jazz tune, with Drexler stating the joyful theme on piano before opening things up for Berlin's clearly bop-informed solo. When Berlin finishes his solo on a deep low growl and then picks up a more "traditional" bass role for Drexler's solo, his taste and capability as a support player is confirmed.

In some ways Berlin's approach is like that of another dominant bassist, Victor Wooten from Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, although they share next to nothing in terms of playing style. But like Wooten, Berlin uses Lumpy Jazz to demonstrate the instrument's potential. While the timekeeping and harmonic anchor characteristics of the bass are clear and unarguable, it is every bit as vital a melodic instrument as any other. While the bass occupies the lower end of the register, in Berlin's hands it never seems out of place in a position of dominance.

And Berlin's writing, clearly geared towards putting the bass front and centre, is in turns clever, lyrical and complex. "A Mensch Among Unmentionables" would have fit comfortably in the Bruford group of the '70s, but sounds completely contemporary, as does the whole record. Lumpy Jazz proves that you can take an instrument, traditionally thought of in a support role, and bring it up front in a completely organic, natural-sounding way.


Track Listing: Brooklyn Uncompromised; My Happy Kids; Lien on Me; A Mensch Among Unmentionables; Almost Dawn; Have You Met Mischpucha; Toot's Suite; Everyone Gets Old (If They Have the Time); Intermezzo in A Major Opus 118 No. 2

Personnel: Jeff Berlin: bass' Danny Gottlieb: drums, percussion; Richard Drexler: piano, keyboards, upright bass; Toots Thielmans: harmonica (7).

Title: Lumpy Jazz | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: M.A.J. Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
In the Artist's Own Words
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Joe Frazier Round 3 (CD Single)

Joe Frazier Round 3...

Self Produced
2018

buy
Low Standards

Low Standards

Random Act Records
2013

buy
Aneurythms

Aneurythms

M.A.J. Records
2007

buy
 

Lumpy Jazz

Thrill Jockey
2006

buy
 

Ace Of Bass

Thrill Jockey
2005

buy
Lumpy Jazz

Lumpy Jazz

M.A.J. Records
2004

buy

Related Articles

Read Begin the Agora CD/LP/Track Review
Begin the Agora
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Time Like This CD/LP/Track Review
Time Like This
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Under One Moon CD/LP/Track Review
Under One Moon
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Doubles, Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review
Doubles, Vol. 1
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 17, 2018
Read Outsidethebox CD/LP/Track Review
Outsidethebox
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 16, 2018
Read There Are Stars In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review
There Are Stars In Brooklyn
by James Fleming
Published: October 16, 2018
Read "Solo vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Solo vol. 1
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 10, 2018
Read "Dirt...And More Dirt" CD/LP/Track Review Dirt...And More Dirt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 22, 2018
Read "Innerpeace: Rare Spiritual Funk And Jazz Gems" CD/LP/Track Review Innerpeace: Rare Spiritual Funk And Jazz Gems
by Chris May
Published: August 11, 2018
Read "Explosion" CD/LP/Track Review Explosion
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 9, 2018
Read "Cyrille Aimee Live" CD/LP/Track Review Cyrille Aimee Live
by Chris Mosey
Published: June 29, 2018
Read "The Toronto Sound" CD/LP/Track Review The Toronto Sound
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 4, 2018