The rhythm section would stay intact for the pianist's next 2 releases, 2000's "Communications Theory" and 2002's "Leaving Home", both featuring a 3-saxophone lineup and recorded at label owner/chief engineer Matt Balitsaris's "Maggie's Farm" in Pennsylvania. Berkman would go on to release 1 more for Palmetto (2004's "Start Here...Finish Here", a quartet date) and then get deeply involved with teaching as well as touring in the United States and throughout Europe and the Far East. He formed the New York Standards Quartet in 2006 (that group, with saxophonist Tim Armacost, bassist Daiki Yasukagawa, and drummer Gene Jackson, issued its 4th CD, "The New Straight Ahead" on Whirlwind Records) - the pianist also released a Quartet disk, "Live at Smoke", in 2009 featuring saxophonist Jimmy Greene.
Surprisingly, there are but 2 ballads in the program, the opening track and "Past Progressive", and both pick up speed as the sextet hurtles forward. One could argue that the closing tune, "Psalm", has the makings of a true ballad. The piano leads the group in, sharing the melody with the soprano saxophone and Kolker's bass clarinet for support (he may have overdubbed an extra clarinet part for the return to the theme after the handsome bass solo). Blade's sparkling brush work, Ms. Oh's wide-ranging bass lines, and the memorable melody line, all make for a pleasing listening experience.
"Old Friends and New Friends" is not so much a return to form as it is, pardon the pun, a return to the farm. Throughout his career as a leader, David Berkman has never made a dull album because, I believe, he's written a good number of melodies that stick in in the mind long after other pieces have faded away. This music, recorded in late winter, sounds as if it was recorded with the windows open, cool breezes wafting through Maggie's Farm recording studio, the sun lifting the spirits of the participants Give it a listen - free your spirits! For more information, go to davidberkman.com.
For your enjoyment, here's "Tribute":
There is so much enjoy in this 45 minute program. One hears the influence of Oliver Nelson in the blues-drenched swing and melody line of "Lost and Found". Matt Wilson's brushes subtly push the song forward, supporting Vinson on his alto solo or dropping a beat beneath the sweet baritone sax sounds of Landrus. The title track has the feel of Nino Rota meets Maria Schneider is its sensuous rhythm, the lovely cello solo (uncredited), the soprano and trumpet interactions and the swooping clarinet solo. Mr. Hampton's voice and the subtle arrangement of Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye" (the only piece not composed by the leader) brings to mind the work of Joe Henry - in a fascinating turn, there is an instrumental reading of the same song (it closes the program) with the clarinet as the lead voice and the guitar replacing the piano on the opening section (everything else in the arrangement is the same). The blend of Ms. Lawry's voice with Mr. Hampton's on "The Dance" is hypnotic while the rhythms suggest the influence of John Hollenbeck and the melody a bow, perhaps, towards, Stephen Sondheim. "Voices" opens slowly with long phrases from the the cellos and the introduction of the reed and brass before Wilson pushes the song into high gear. Yet, within a minute, the piece quiets down and goes into a long reverie with instruments moving in and out of the sound spectrum. This time, it's the piano that falls into a steady rhythm and moves the piece forward. The soulful "E and A" has a quiet opening before Vinson's soprano saxophone introduces the melody as well as the other voices. At one point, the clarinets, saxophone and trumpet swirl around each other like a Dixieland band, each member playing his or her own variation of the melody.
It's barely May and there have been so many good new recordings issued this year. "Threading", with its wonderful melodies, airy arrangements, and inspired musicianship, is one of the best. Oded Lev-Ari, who has helped to make so many contemporary musicians and vocalists uncover the truth and beauty in their music, reveals those attributes and more in how own music.
For more information, go to www.odedlevari.com.
Here's the delightful "Lost and Found":