• courtesy of the artist
  • David Berkman

Pianist, bandleader, and composer David Berkman has been one the most interesting, gracefully swinging figures on New York’s jazz scene for a couple of decades, but his lack of flash and his tight fit within the postbop tradition (although he regularly pushes against the seams) have made him easy to overlook. There’s nothing wild or weird about him—he’s just a great musician, which is sometimes not enough when it comes to attracting attention. In a couple of weeks he’s releasing a terrific new record called Old Friends and New Friends, the title of which reflects his career’s longevity and the cast of collaborators he’s worked with over that time—the drummer Brian Blade (Berkman has always privileged rhythm in his music, employing a great assemblage of percussionists that has included Blade, Nasheet Waits, and Johnathan Blake), as well as some new ones like the bassist Linda Oh. The album’s title also refers to Palmetto Records, which has worked with him since releasing Handmade in 1998 (and is releasing Old Friends and New Friends).

The recording covers a nice range within its mostly mainstream sound, with touches of Coltrane in the pretty soprano sax solo Adam Kolker delivers on the album’s opening track, “Tribute” (which you can hear below), while the buoyant “No Blues No Really No Blues” serves up a taste of west-coast jazz, particularly in the high-level mutlilinear interplay between saxophonists Kolker, Dayna Stephens, and Billy Drewes. On his midtempo swinger “Deep High Wide Sky” Berkman locks in with Stephens in remarkable fashion, unfurling simultaneous lines that constantly shed new light on what the other is doing. Berkman rolls into town for a weekend engagement at the Green Mill tonight and tomorrow—Stephens, drummer Rudy Royston, and bassist Ed Howard join him.

Today’s playlist:

Thomas Savy, French Suite (Plus Loin Music)
The Cramps, Songs the Lord Taught Us (Capitol)
Bobo Stenson Trio, Very Early (DIW, Japan)
Erköse Brothers, Köcekce (Kalan)
Ihsan Emiki, Al-Samaa: Ecstatic Spiritual Audition (Institut du Monde Arabe)