Chicago cornetist Josh Berman, a mainstay on the Windy City’s improvised music scene for the past 10 years, has put together a provocative, intelligent debut as a leader. His Old Idea, seemingly, is to capture some of balance of structure and freedom heard on Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch! (which is now 45 years old). Indeed, the instrumentation is similar and Berman originals like “On Account of a Hat,” “Nori,” “What Can?” and “Let’s Pretend” seem cast in the same spirit of Dolphy’s “Hat and Beard,” “Gazelloni” and “Straight Up and Down” from that classic Blue Note release, reflected by intricate unison lines on the head and a daring time/no time aesthetic in the solo sections.
Berman is a bold improviser with clear intention behind every note. And he’s found a kindred spirit in robust-toned tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, whose tight interaction with the cornetist is nearly telepathic throughout, particularly on their duet, “Next Year A.” The flexible and highly empathic rhythm tandem of bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Nori Tanaka lets this music breathe while Jason Adasiewicz’s shimmering vibes invite comparisons to Bobby Hutcherson’s key role on Out to Lunch!