Vita Brevis represents maverick pianist Borah Bergman's last session before his death at age 85 in 2013. In the liners label boss Joe Chonto speculates that Bergman suffered from undiagnosed Aspberger's syndrome. As such it's perhaps not a surprise that he found his niche in outsider musicthe jazz avant-garde. However his musical ability was never in doubt, given his remarkable facility to simultaneously pursue separate lines at length with each hand. On this date he's surrounded by other elder statesmen of the scene capable of following the pianist wherever he roams.
NOLA saxophonist Kidd Jordan's uncompromising career stretches back to 1955, while bassist William Parker started out in the fertile NYC loft years, becoming central to much of the Downtown scene and the celebrated Vision Festival. In this company drummer Michael Wimberly may be least known but he has recorded extensively with free jazz veteran Charles Gayle, and has recently replaced Milford Graves on the faculty at Bennington College. Together they create a dense unfettered music. Bergman stands as first among equals and plays for much of the time, generally establishing the mood and setting the direction for the others follow. Parker and Wimberly combine to provide fluid propulsion which maintains momentum but doesn't constrain.
Although Jordan and Bergman don't perhaps achieve the same connection as the saxophonist enjoys with his regular accomplice pianist Joel Futterman, when they do mesh, as at the end of the title cut, which feels like a great spewing out of pent up emotion, or in the second half of "Chasin' Another Train (of Thought)," it is to powerful effect. Elsewhere at times the two seem set on parallel tracks. Bergman occasionally edges into melodic fragments of what might be standards in the midst of his atonal runs, which may come across as a welcome change of pace or a lack of focus depending on your outlook. But there won't be any more where this comes from so make the most of it. To that end the generous 73-minute playing time even includes the ten minute soundcheck, which also has its moments especially in a knotty middle section.
Improvisation; When Autumn Comes; Chasin' Another Train (of Thought); Vita Brevis, Occasio Praeceps; Soundcheck.
Borah Bergman: piano; Kidd Jordan: tenor saxophone; William Parker: bass; Michael Wimberly: drums.
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