For the past five years, Chicago-based cornetist Josh Berman has dug deeply into his city’s early jazz traditions to craft an inventive take on the 1920s repertoire of the Austin High Gang, particularly Eddie Condon, Bud Freeman and Dave Tough. Berman never treats these songs as museum pieces, but as jumping-off points for a new and often uproarious take on the notion of collective improvisation. A great example is his arrangement of Condon’s “Liza,” which incorporates all kinds of surprising stops and starts. Funk is in the background, too: Drummer Frank Rosaly and bassist Joshua Abrams are particularly adept at driving the frenzied rhythmic changes. This ensemble makes the most of wide-open musical spaces, like the way Rosaly and the gangleader play alongside and against vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz’s quietly firm resonance on Berman’s original composition “Mobile And Blues”—and then the horn section gets noisy again.

-Aaron Cohen, Downbeat, August 2012

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