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Ken Berman: Sound Poetry

Edward Blanco By

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Pianist Ken Berman's friendship with the late poet Eythan Klamka served as the inspiration for Sound Poetry, a musical project of mostly original compositions bookended by two solo reinterpretations of classic jazz standards. Poet Klamka, to whom this album is dedicated, had previously stated that "any true musician is a sound poet" and to this end, poetry and music come together on the pianists fourth album as leader. Along with electric bassist Kai Eckhardt and drummer Akira Tana, the Berman trio brave through a selection of fresh new material of light improvised nature.

Billy Strayhorn's oft-recorded standard "Lush Life" opens the music with the leader on an expansive piano solo providing cleaver right-hand finger-play on a generally lush treatment of one of Strayhorn's signature tunes. Paying tribute to a couple of inspirational figures in his career, Berman pens "Old Dylan" (for "Bob Dylan") and "Bill Frisell," two original pieces the trio performs energetically. The main inspirational tune of the album is obviously, "The Poet," and while dedicated to friend Klamka, this one just happens to be one of the best charts of the album containing a slight nod to John Coltrane's "Equinox."

Seemingly an instrumental ballad at first glance, "Old Style Tune" actually has a lot of kick to it featuring firm piano play, bass and drum solos that sounds like nothing old style in fact, pretty modern at that. After the short tribute-piece "Diane" (for Diane Clymer), the pianist takes off on an Allen Ginsberg read of "Mexico City Blues" with his own version titled "Spaghetti Eastern" where Eckhardt's featured bass work is only eclipsed by Berman best performance of the disc.

Tipping his hat to one of the greatest jazz musicians of our time, Berman designs the humble "Sound Poem" as a haunting exploration of the Bill Evans' style on a brief but beautiful tune. As he began the music, Berman closes with another solo performance, this time with a tender read of George and Ira Gershwin classic, "Someone to Watch Over Me." San Francisco-based pianist Ken Berman leads his very able trio into newly chartered territory on Sound Poetry, a sound and charming musical statement from a superb pianist and composer.

Track Listing: Lush Life; Old Dylan; Bill Frisell; Here and Gone; The Poet; Old Style Tune; Diane; Spaghetti Eastern; Sound Poem; Someone To Watch Over Me.

Personnel: Ken Berman: piano; Kai Eckhardt: electric bass; Akira Tana: drums

Title: Sound Poetry | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: mmgmusic


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