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David Berkman: Old Friends And New Friends

Budd Kopman By

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David Berkman: Old Friends And New Friends
With Old Friends and New Friends, pianist/composer David Berkman reunites with the Palmetto label, as well as Matt Balitsaris, who both founded the label and was the recording engineer. Berkman nostalgically describes the process of making the earlier recordings as a group undertaking where disparate personalties are melded into a whole to produce a distinct sound.

Besides Balitsaris, this recording features drummer Brian Blade and saxophonists Adam Kolker and Billy Drewes, who are the "old friends" from recordings and times past, while adding Berkman's "new friends" from his latest quartet, saxophonist Dayna Stephens and bassist Linda May Han Oh.

At least part of the joy of this music is the amazing sense of camaraderie that pours out of the speakers. It is not just that everyone knows what they are doing, knows how architect a solo or how to comment on the proceedings. Some of it most definitely comes from the very tight rhythm section of Blade and Oh; but also, Berkman's compositions have a unique mixture of the logical and expected (i.e. they can be remembered as "tunes") with enough twists and turns of harmony and phrasing to pique the ears and mind.

Jazz has often been described as "subversive" for its iconoclasm, edginess and, at times, aural confrontation. However, much jazz has also elicited the adjective of "sensuous," and it is on this side of the spectrum on which Old Friends and New Friends lies. The recording is lush with a very strong sense of presence, and this suites Berkman's compositions perfectly.

The band starts from this baseline, allowing all the soloists, including Berkman, to build and resolve tension, always supported closely by Blade and Oh. Each track is alive and palpably breathes as it explores it own emotional universe. Berkman is clearly the leader throughout, and solos superbly with both intensity and finesse, while the tunes and their arrangements allow the saxophonists to play with fire and freedom within this structure, adding excitement and bit of a sense of danger that is always present in improvisational music.

Old Friends and New Friends, while being "mainstream," manages to combine the opposites of accessibility and deep musicality while simultaneously projecting a strong sense of the pure joy of musical creation and improvisational chance-taking. As such, it can be deeply enjoyed by the experienced jazz lover, as well as be the perfect introduction for someone who might be new to jazz, and hence is highly recommended to anyone and everyone.

Track Listing

Tribute; No Blues No Really No Blues; Past Progressive; Deep High Wide Sky; Strange Attractions Then Birds; No Blues No Really No Blues (Trio Version); West 180th Street; Up Jumped Ming.

Personnel

David Berkman: piano; Dayna Stephens: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Billy Drewes: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Adam Kolker: soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Linda Oh: bass; Brian Blade: drums.

Album information

Title: Old Friends And New Friends | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

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