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Shelly Berg at Catalina's

Jim Santella By

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Shelly Berg Trio
Catalina Bar & Grill
Hollywood, California
January 20, 2005

Celebrating the release of Blackbird , his new CD on the Concord label, Shelly Berg brought his trio to Catalina's on a Thursday night for an intimate evening among friends and fans. With bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Gregg Field, the pianist interpreted familiar standards, contemporary pieces, and fresh originals. The session offered a balanced mixture of up-tempo romps and slower, romantic ballads.

Following the CD's program closely, Berg's cohesive trio offered a variety of reflections. The animated pianist poured it on with exciting pieces such as "Pat Metheny's "Question and Answer" and his own "Hot it Up." His enthusiastic demeanor drove the session passionately. At times, Berg rose up off the piano bench in a spontaneous fervor as the music carried him away. His powerful interpretations engaged the trio in rhythmic cycles that rocked the room and captivated his audience.

"Blackbird" moved a bit slower, but with heightened emotion. Recalling the song's poignant lyrics, the pianist massaged the keyboard with fluid motion and incorporated seamless phrasing into the familiar tune. Berghofer's lyrical bass solo followed with a similar outpouring of emotion. As an aside, he injected an outside quote from "Bye Bye Blackbird" into his bass solo. The trio gave this familiar song a fresh look with their wide array of spontaneous melodic statements.

Slower ballads such as "Blame it on the Sun" and "Estate" emphasized the trio's mellower, romantic aspect. At times, Field used his fingertips to give the cymbals an ultra-light texture. His wire brushes gave these slower ballads a serene texture that enveloped the room with a warm glow.

Each of the trio's artists dug deep inside himself for highly personal avenues of expression. The ambience of Catalina's new room on Sunset provided the perfect partnership for Berg's dynamic trio. The evening was focused on the music, and everything else fell into place quite naturally. With the success of his new album, Shelly Berg can rest assured that his audience feels as comfortable with the music as he does. It's contagious.

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