WBGO Radar

David Berkman: Old Friends And New Friends

david berkman

New tunes in the right setting feel like old clothes - comfortable, yet there is something that makes them feel different each time out. In the hands of a musician, these old clothes are documented, then the listener gets to wear them time and time again, each time bringing new delights and perhaps a new move on a step, or new discovery with each listen.

Pianist David Berkman has that special talent, developed over years in bands with Cecil McBee, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Fathead Newman, Hank Crawford and The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra  to name a few tailors.

Berkman has toured the world and written books on creative practicing and guides for jazz singers.

Old Friends and New Friends, Berkman's upcoming release on the Palmetto label reunites him with drummer Brian Blade, who appeared on 3 previous Berkman recordings, and saxophonists Adam Kolker and Billy Drewes, who he's known for over 30 years. New friends, and part of his recently formed quartet, include saxophonist Dayna Stephens and bassist Linda Oh.

Recorded at "Maggie's Farm," Palmetto producer Matt Balistaris's studio in Buck's County Pennsylvania, David says, "going back to that place was evocative, nostalgic and helped in the vision for this recording."

Bandleaders have often said they write for personalities, not instruments. But Berkman's familiarity with his bandmates is evident throughout.

The three saxophonists get to trade with each other on "Past Progressive."

The soprano interplay with the pianist rewards the listener on "Strange Attractions Then Birds."

The opener, "Tribute," has Kolker's soprano and Stephens' tenor out front on Berkman's homage to a frequent collaborator, Tom Harrell.

The leader says of drummer Blade, " the second I hear a recording I can tell it's Brian by his unique and very personal dynamics."

Those dynamics are front and center on " No Blues No Really No Blues", an airy swinging trio showcase.

"Up Jumped Ming," a nod to Freddie Hubbard, has the pianist riding along with Blade's rhythm, highlighted by some tasty tenor from Stephens in this pace setter.

"Deep High Wide Sky" is a great one for Oh's inventive bass and Stephen's sax as the leader works his substantial piano lines to the chord changes of Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean."

David Berkman's "Old Friends And New Friends" is sure to delight his old listeners and add more than a few new ones. It comes out May 5th.

Berkman shares his new music live at Smalls Jazz Club in New York on June 10th.

   - Gary Walker, WBGO music director


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