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

The Bridge #15

Tuesday | 20 November 2018
Hideout - 9:00pm

The Bridge #15

JOSH BERMAN – cornet
JASON STEIN – bass clarinet

One of way of speaking about the just excesses of any improvised music, which by nature make light of balance and imbalance, of stability and instability, would be to invoke another duality: that of reverence and irreverence. Because, passionately or soberly, soberly and passionately, each musicians of this Bridge ensemble – the fifteenth, and the last of this cycle to start its journey – summons in his own way the resources of the most unbridled expressiveness or wholesome theatrics. Let’s mention, incidentally: about Didier Petit, that he is the world’s first cellist to have truly played his instrument in zero-gravity conditions, in the stratosphere, after thousands of attempts on this planet’s surface; about Jason Stein, that he is one of the very few improvisers to have lit a bass clarinet shaped fire at the Madison Square Garden, opening for one of North America’s most famous stand-up comedians when he’s not pursuing underground avenues; about Edward Perraud, an acrobatic drummer and sassy showman with a gift for multiplying himself, that he was also able to create in France unprecedented dialogues between music and spoken word; about Josh Berman, that he’s leading a perfectly balanced double life as a cornetist and child psychologist, that he reinvented in his spare time the music of the Austin High School Gang. However, that’s not all. Their lives as musicians don’t boil down to these feats.

We shall have to consider these four individualities together. Knowing that, as Jason Stein puts it, “playing in a new group with musicians that I don’t know well is one of the great pleasures afforded by improvisational music. Regardless of the country and culture we come from, through music, there is always great opportunity for communication and creativity. I don’t know what this band will sound like and the process of building whatever our sound will be is as much about creating and contributing as it is about discovering and allowing room for things to happen. As improvisers, we tend to cultivate a personal language on our instruments that is both specific and flexible, such that our voices can bend and twist and relax around the language of others.” And Didier Petit concurs: “it’s always very exciting to play together and not know what the music will be. I’m more concerned about what the group will be as a group than about each musician, because I know each one of us has his own music.”

The cellist has even wondered: how can one offer a music that is truly of the early 21st century? Because that of the early 20th century, which was to be identified as ‘jazz’, was immediately new and popular, a product of its time linked to that era’s transformations: a fortunate collision of cultures, at the time of the second industrial revolution, the development of mass transportation, the democratization of artistic and instrumental practices… But nowadays, in the era of globalization, in these postmodern and gluttonous times, what would “the new thing” sound like? That is the impossible question these four improvisers – each with their own pronounced, bold, and tempered character – will try to answer by playing. There’s no need to agree upon cut and paste procedure, to negotiate the persistence of discourse seemingly kept in check with a right to be forgotten included in any improvisation, to assign tasks and multitask… Playing, or rather letting oneself be carried by perhaps unanswerable questions: how can one not overindulging in oneself, how can one be multiple instead of unique? How can one be lasting in these stunned and stunning times? How can one cultivate intense smallness in times deceived by delusions of grandeur? What sort of relationship to speed should be reinvented? How can one not contribute to this planet’s destruction? There’s no program in sight. Only the adventurous alertness of play and invention.

The Few

The Few brings together three of the most dynamic string players from the latest generation of Chicago’s storied improvised music community – Macie Stewart (violin / voice), Charlie Kirchen (bass), Steve Marquette (guitar) – forming an improvising, acoustic trio that seamlessly blends their wide ranging influences into a singular whole. In 2017 they released “Fragments of a Luxury Vessel” – their debut LP – on Marquette’s Two Cities Label.

“Each performance wends through passages as spiky and splintery as they are tender and lyric, and for such a young group of players the interplay is impressive.” – Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader