Josh Berman


Josh Berman is an internationally recognized cornetist and composer. He has led the acclaimed Old Idea, Josh Berman and his Gang, and his own trio. In addition to being an indispensable contributor to Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scene, Berman has been a concert presenter with fellow Chicagoan Mike Reed, producing hundreds of shows over the past 20 years. Berman’s work has been critically acclaimed in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, JazzTimes, and DownBeat, among others. His recordings can be found on the Chicago’s legendary Delmark Records and more recently on Austin’s Astral Spirits Records

“I like to stop and listen to what is happening around me…there is often time for contemplation in the midst of many improvisation performances,” says cornetist Josh Berman. He also likes to wait before releasing an album: “When one makes a record of original music at the feverish pace of one every three years, one has time to think.” These attitudes are not that common. A Dance And A Hop is therefore his third album as leader, following Old Idea (2009) and There Now (2012), both also on Delmark. It’s more concise, Berman remarks – both in the improvisations, and in the forces deployed. Eleven original compositions total only 44 minutes, and themes arise from improvised material, Berman explains. The format leaves the horn very exposed: “I am very interested in…how the tunes live without space being filled by reeds, vibraphone, other voices,” the cornetist adds. The result is a unique sound world, with each player creating surprising timbres and sounds. Berman is an immediately distinctive, strongly individual stylist. As Larry Kart’s sleeve-notes point out, his liking for the middle and lower registers has become more noticeable after the switch from trumpet to cornet. Every composition is striking and full of interest– a rare achievement. Berman’s unconventionally poetic approach to melody is reflected in the intuitive, simpatico trio with Roebke and Rosaly. Blues, with its quirky, non-12-bar theme, shows their idiosyncratic yet totally convincing approach. Wooden echoes rhythmic devices of early jazz in what’s been described, by Kart, as a “dance for marionette”. Today’s Date’s disjointed line collapses into a pastiche of free jazz timbres, and struggles to an entropic conclusion. A rich and sophisticated release, for sure.

Andy Hamilton, JazzJournal

Originally published April 2016