Josh Berman’s first two solo albums foregrounded a dialogue between his individual voice and larger contexts. On 2009’s Old Idea, you could hear him establishing his voice within the setting of the 21st-century Chicago avant-garde jazz scene; 2012’s ere Now set up an exchange between that voice and another local scene, the Austin High Gang of the 1920s. Something similar is at work on A Dance And A Hop, but this time the focus has zeroed in on the cornetist’s instrumental, compositional and improvisational approaches.
For the first time, Berman leads an ensemble without a chordal instrument, or even another horn. All 11 compositions are his, and each is compact, clocking in between three and five minutes. Such pith demands that listeners pay attention to the details of the music, and there’s plenty to find there. But while the emphasis here is on Berman’s sound and ideas, their expression would be impossible without the contributions of bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly. On “Your Uncle,” the bassist shifts effortlessly between shadowing the cornet’s lines and pro- posing alternatives to them, while Rosaly’s brushes-on-snare accompaniment keeps up a quiet but endlessly varied commentary on the proceedings. They don’t just play Berman’s music, they complete it.
Four Star Review
Originally published in the February 2016 issue of Downbeat