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Adam Berenson: Songs from the Garret


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Adam Berenson: Songs from the Garret
Adam Berenson's Songs from the Garret is a two-CD solo collection but the essence of other composers prowl in the shadows. The lofty album title pays tribute to particular compositions from Steve Swallow, Carla Bley, Michael Gibbs, Chick Corea and a host of others. Berenson, a well-versed composer/keyboardist, takes the unusual approach (for him) of focusing entirely on covers. The pieces on Songs from the Garret are broadly described by Berenson as "Boston standards." While most of these compositions are not traditional standards, many were considered part of a regular repertoire unique to the Boston music scene.

Berenson typically records in compact settings; his preferred formats are solo, duo and trio. He takes a much wider view in terms of keyboards of choice. On previous Dream Play label releases, he has featured an array of instruments; live electronics on Lumen (2015), Fender Rhodes on Every Beginning is a Sequel (2020), acoustic piano on Assemblages (2021), and a half-dozen sampler/synthesizers on Homages and Worlds (2022). For Songs from the Garret, Berenson utilizes the seventy-six key Sequential Prophet XL, taking full advantage of the instrument's vast capabilities.

There are seventeen eclectic tracks across the two discs. Michael Gibbs' three compositions—"Sweet Rain," "A Family Joy," and "Feelings and Things"— are all from the trombonist's 1970 self-titled debut album (Deram). The Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) native all but disappeared from recordings as a leader, between the 1970s and the 1990s. But he was hardly absent from the music business; his credits include work with Jaco Pastorius, Gary Burton and John Scofield. Other compositions are from Lyle Mays, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman.

It can be ill-advised to compare artists' versions of songs but in the case of Songs from the Garret, such an assessment highlights Berenson's facility with the Prophet XL. The Gary Burton/Chick Corea take on "Falling Grace," for example, is airy, almost delicate, and distinguished by Swallow's bass. Berenson retains the ethereal properties of the original, down to mirroring Burton's supplementary piano and vibraphone enhancements. "Chippie," originally from Ornette Coleman's Something Else!!! (Contemporary Records, 1958) is an exercise in vocal-like pitch, first carried by Don Cherry's trumpet. Berenson rounds out those qualities, simulating the bubbling sound of a B3 organ to give a human voice to the music. Miles Davis' first full foray into electric projects produced the scorching "Petits Machins." In Berenson's hands, the piece takes on a mysterious tension, revamping the mood of the piece entirely.

A single illumination that speaks to Berenson's ability to establish the proprietorship of a cover is "Claude and Betty." From the Eberhard Weber/Gary Burton Passengers (ECM, 1977), the original featured Pat Metheny, Dan Gottlieb, and the composer, Swallow. Berenson omits the sharper dynamics of guitar and vibes, opting for the synthesizer's fuller but subtle effects. Swallow's own reaction was to praise Berenson's version as preferable to his own recording. Songs from the Garret is a substantial collection that shines where synthesized music is often redundant. Berenson's reading of these pieces is always inventive, and his outstanding musicianship is not dictated by the technology he so deftly employs.

Track Listing

Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly; Nacada; Sweet Rain; Falling Grace; A Family Joy; All The Things You Are; August; No Mystery; Newborn; Arise, Her Eyes; Petits Machins; Chippie; Feelings and Things; My Ship; Sing Me Softly of the Blues; Sweet Henry; Claude and Betty.


Adam Berenson: synthesizer.

Album information

Title: Songs from the Garret | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Dream Play Records

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