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Ken Berman: In Mind

To begin with an admission of cranky subjective bias, I dislike seeing records by young unknown piano players that contain original material exclusively. By offering at least some of their improvisations on known material, jazz musicians establish the rules of engagement. The accents and inflections, the emphases and omissions, the strengths and weaknesses-all these elements of a style become most apparent when heard through the acoustic lens of previously understood music.

All 10 pieces on In Mind are Ken Berman originals. They are all competently crafted within two broad categories: medium tempo melodicism (“In Mind,” “Too Early,” “It’s Over,” “2031 Lincoln,” “MRI”), and attempts to get funky (“Be Frank,” “California French Pastry,” “The Fix,” “Borrowed Silver,” “KO OK”). Since Berman’s melodicism is a little funky, and his funk is quite tame, 10 straight Berman songs begin to sound quite similar.

Berman the player is very much an extension of Berman the composer: cautious, methodical, conventional, tending toward blandness, unfailingly pleasant. If he plays too many clichés, his music still has a clean, light-footed nimbleness that is easy to take. These positive qualities are expertly reinforced by John Lockwood on bass and either Yoron Israel or Bob Gullotti on drums.

Originally Published