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Shelly Berg and David Finck: The Deep

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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So it happens that pianist Shelly Berg and bassist David Finck were hired by Chesky Records to play on a Livingston Taylor album. After they finished that session, with the high-end audiophile equipment still in place, David Chesky suggested the two stay and make a duo album themselves. And so they did, virtually on the spot.

Since Berg and Finck play so well together, and know a lot of tunes, it was easy to come up with a standards set list in which Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Johnny Mercer are all represented. And because producer Chesky requested some free improvisation, the two created six tracks of spontaneous musical conversation as well, although in these hands each was nearly a song. The result is The Deep, a relaxed interplay between two supremely gifted and experienced pros at the very top of their game.

It would require many pages to list all their accomplishments---the luminaries they've recorded and played with, their innumerable CDs, their nights on the world's great stages. Such resumes are readily available on the Web, leaving The Deep to express all that talent and taste without a word being said. (It's a good thing, too, since there are no liner notes, and the tiny text often disappears into the background color.)

But the music is wonderful. This marvelous album draws the listener in from the top, with the rarely-played and hauntingly beautiful "Fellini's Waltz." The arrangements are often intriguing: for instance, "Solar" goes on for two minutes before the melody appears, then snaps off about thirty seconds later. Other highlights include a revelatory eight-minute "Dindi" with a definitive Finck solo; the winsome "Whistling Away the Dark"; another gem from Jobim, "If You Never Come to Me"; and the lustrous "Why Did I Choose you?" Fans of thoughtful improvisation will treasure the free tracks, which highlight what makes this CD so unusual: the way the players listen and respond to each other, rather than going on a self-involved ego ride, intent on showing off their chops. Of course, it also helps that both men are such expressive and melodic players with a deep respect for each other.

In the final analysis, it's this deep listening and steady empathic connection that elevates The Deep above the pack. To hear Berg and Finck support and inspire each other is a rare treat: the sound of jazz at its best.

Track Listing: Fellini's Waltz; Solar; For Gunther; Dindi; For John Lewis; Peri's Scope; Why Did I Choose You?; Glacier Love; 3rd Word; Whistling Away the Dark; Lunar; If You Never Come To Me; The Deep; Just You, Just Me

Personnel: Shelly Berg: piano; David Finck: bass.

Title: The Deep | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Chesky Records

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