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Thursday, April 04, 2019

CD Review: The David Berkman Sextet (plus guests) - Six of One

Dayna Stephens (tenor sax/EWI); Adam Kolker (soprano sax/bass clarinet); Billy Drewes (alto sax/ clarinet); David Berkman (piano); Chris Lightcap (bass); Kenneth Salters (drums) + Rogerio Boccato (perc #2) Tim Armacost (tenor sax on #1 #5 #7),
(Review by Dave Brownlow).

Pianist/composer/arranger/bandleader David Berkman is a well-known recording artist on the New York scene as a leader, a sideman for many big names (Sonny Stitt, Tom Farrell, Cecil McBee) and as a teacher at Universities and Jazz Camps in the U.S, South America, Asia and Europe. Here, he performs 10 tracks with his regular sextet (plus guests) in a programme of original music having a wide spectrum of influences. The band has worked together for many years and Berkman, like Duke Ellington before, likes to write for his ensemble with individual players in mind.


Blowing Smoke (dedicated to Manhattan’s Smoke Jazz Club) is a relaxed swinger in the ‘contemporary’ style with lively solos from the leader, and Armacost and Stephens on tenors. Cynical Episode has tonal variety provided by Stephens on EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), Kolker on bass clarinet and Drewes on alto. An urgent, minor theme leads to dramatic, tense solos all round, with background figures and percussion adding to the atmosphere. Blue Poles uses soprano, alto & tenor saxes in a medium-tempo opening leading to solos in double-tempo from five of the sextet in an intense workout. Billy is a jolly tune named after easy-going Dewes. The band easily copes with a complex, chordal, rhythmic structure in a mercurial fashion. Sincerely – a ballad featuring Armacost and Dewes is played in a fluent, mobile manner. Three And A Half Minutes is an attractive, flowing theme where Stephens and Kolker improvise together following the leader’s jagged piano solo.

Kickstopper, a straight-ahead ‘burner’ again in contemporary style, features soprano, alto and tenor saxes over ambiguous ‘Tyner-esque’ chords. Shitamachi  (Downtown in Japanese) is for the old section of Tokyo, has some elegant, interweaving lines from tenor, clarinet, and bass clarinet, providing variety before a drum ‘thrash’ from Salters. Restoration is a cleverly arranged song which is slightly ‘gospel-tinged’ with frequent key changes – the leader’s piano shines here… Rain, rain has the clarinets to the fore in a wistful, slightly melancholic framework. Bassist Lightcap has his moments before Berkman brings the CD to its conclusion in a flowing statement.
Dave B

The David Berkman Sextet (Plus Guests) “Six Of One” is available from April 5 on Palmetto Records from: davidberkman.com.

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