323

Bertha Hope: Nothin' But Love

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Reservoir Music has quietly and effectively been building an impressive body of works by New York City pianists over the years, including Kenny Barron, Steve Kuhn, Rob Schneiderman and John Hicks. Now Reservoir has graciously given Bertha Hope, widow of deceased and under-recognized jazz pianist Elmo Hope, the opportunity to be counted in her own gentle way among some of her generation’s noteworthy pianists. “Nothin’ But Love” is her first recording on an American label.

After Elmo Hope’s passing in 1967, Bertha remained a favorite of New York musicians as she performed occasionally when child-raising responsibilities permitted. But the conflict and stress of those responsibilities meant that she had little time to build a career or to capitalize on her early studies with Richie Powell or her early work with Johnny Otis.

Now, in the tradition of other classic piano trios, Bertha Hope is building awareness, but more importantly, developing listeners who are attracted to the sincerity of her music. Creating a following, and in the process becoming kind of a cult figure, among female jazz musicians at the Mary Lou Williams jazz festival, Hope finally is available on CD for a wider audience to hear.

With an assured degree of technical facility, but also a calmness and devotion that can be channeled through her music, Hope’s touch is one avoiding dynamic extremes, but instead painting serene portraits, even when she goes for a bop sensibility, as on “Book’ Bok”. Even then, or on her tribute to Monk, “Gone To See T,” she can’t forsake her reassuring style and the ease of her swing. Angularity and surprise attacks and games-playing wit don’t seem to be her approach.

Rather, heartfelt emotion—as expressed in the tribute to Hope’s son, Sun Rã Gurumayi, “Prayer For Sun Rã”, or on her warmly sun tune “Balm In Gilead”—flows through her instrument, and thus leads to the title of her CD.

The other two members of Bertha Hope’s working trio couldn’t be more impressive either. Walter Booker—he of notable work with Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Art Farmer and John Hicks—provides a like degree of maturity. Booker frankly sounds tremendous in arco on “Mia” or as he lopes through Cedar Walton’s “Ojos De Rojo” or the tune in his honor, “Book’s Bok”. Then there’s Jimmy Cobb, he of legendary drumming status with Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, Wynton Kelly, Sarah Vaughan and Sonny Stitt. The consummate professional, Cobb allows Hope to shine throughout her CD with bedrock percussion but also with unobtrusiveness until he breaks loose on “Ojos De Rojo”.

As RCA merges labels and Warner Brothers consolidates through combinations of conglomerates, it’s refreshing to hear deserving talent given a chance to record on—where else?—a small and scrappy label that sticks to its knitting and enlarges jazz discography and documentation in the process.

Track Listing:

Book

Personnel:

Bertha Hope, piano, vocal; Walter Booker, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums

| Record Label: Reservoir Music | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell CD/LP/Track Review Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Oaktree CD/LP/Track Review Oaktree
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Green With Envy CD/LP/Track Review Green With Envy
by James Nadal
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Luma CD/LP/Track Review Luma
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 28, 2017
Read My Foolish Heart CD/LP/Track Review My Foolish Heart
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 28, 2017
Read Ha Noi Duo CD/LP/Track Review Ha Noi Duo
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read "And to the Republic" CD/LP/Track Review And to the Republic
by Mark F. Turner
Published: October 12, 2016
Read "Pittsburgh" CD/LP/Track Review Pittsburgh
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 23, 2016
Read "Centreline Theory" CD/LP/Track Review Centreline Theory
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 26, 2016
Read "Soldani Dieci Anni" CD/LP/Track Review Soldani Dieci Anni
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 5, 2016
Read "Blackwater" CD/LP/Track Review Blackwater
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 27, 2016
Read "Lovers" CD/LP/Track Review Lovers
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 20, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!