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Friday, December 7, 2012

Josh Berman & His Gang -There Now (Delmark, 2012) ***½

By Philip Coombs

I bought this recording hoping to have a fun listen, a guilty pleasure as it were, without having to think too much about it. This album looked like the perfect way to accomplish just that. Six Chicagoan standards mixed with a couple of originals with no intentions of writing a review or pondering metaphors and alliteration would make for a perfect lazy afternoon.

Clearly, that didn't happen. What I did get was a surprising and impressive piece of work played by a group of musicians who know how to bounce between jazz genres in a convincing and passionate way. It is that dedication to authenticity that made it worth dusting off the old pencil and write this review.
Josh Berman (cornet) and his Gang, comprising of Jeb Bishop (trombone), Guillermo Gregorio (clarinet), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Keefe Jackson (tenor saxophone), Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Joshua Abrams (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums), lead me through, and ultimately convinced me, that wherever they were, they were There Now.

On track one, 'Love is just Around the Corner', Stein starts us off with a rather unconventional start to Berman's vision, a bass clarinet solo before the Gang blast it's way through the tune's melody with all guns blazing. 'Sugar' is Rosaly's nod to the big band drummers while keeping it as fresh and new as possible.

'Cloudy', on paper, seems destined for a train wreck to the highest degree. What starts our as a full band free jazz volume fest with each member contributing quality to the noise, the track turns around on a snap of the fingers. Here comes the train. As Rosaly and Abrams chug along with a stellar groove, the horns veer off track and start heading into free territory again. Berman slowly puts on the conductor's hat and manages to keep both trains side by side as they head for the station proving that this track and Berman's vision can be both There Now and There Now at the same time producing very pleasant results.

It is this ability to one foot in the past and one in the future that not only keeps this recording relevant but also brings a lot of enjoyment.

Can be purchased through the label.

Here is the Gang with 'Cloudy':

© stef


Anonymous said...

This is a great album. A very clever melding of Jazz eras played seamlessly by a talented group of musicians. This could easily have turned into a dry academic exercise or a 'designed by committee' many headed monster. It avoids all such pitfalls to be a very enjoyable, original and stimulating listen. Certainly worthy of nomination to the end-of-year poll

joesh said...

I have,'t heard this record as yet, but the whole crowd of Berman, Shelton, Jackson, Adasiewicz, Jeb Bishop, Lonberg-Holm and the other young guys up in Chicago, are all making some really interesting music that as Philip says about Berman has "one foot in the past and one in the future"

Thanks for the review .... now I'm extra curious!