Josh Berman gives his third Delmark album a title that makes it seem like a lark, but A Dance and a Hop feels serious, if not exactly sober. This dexterous post-bop does challenge, gliding from percolating cloistered grooves to expansive syncopation, transitions that the trio of cornetist Berman, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Frank Rosaly perform seemingly instinctively while executing them with a precision that gives the lie to that impression. A Dance and a Hop walks that edge, its 11 songs carrying an immediacy that suggests improvisation, but these are subtle, shaded compositions that cumulatively suggest the depth and range of Berman. Still, the main pleasure of A Dance and a Hop remains how the trio turns this cerebral music into something visceral; the performances retain their kick in subsequent spins.

By Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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