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Borah Bergman: The River of Sounds

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Every now and then, the inadequacy of language to describe a musical performance fairly well smacks you upside the head-especially when the performance in question is a free improvisation. In the case of pianist Borah Bergman’s The River of Sounds, that difficulty is all the more ironic because Bergman suggests there is a storyline underpinning the tumultuous session with German trombonist Conny Bauer and microtonal electric violinist Mat Maneri. He supplies a brief mystery story in the CD booklet; according to Steve Lake’s notes, Bergman hears The River of Sounds as an “opera,” so presumably that story is the work’s libretto.

The aqueous album title is certainly appropriate; the music eddies, pools, rushes and tumbles like a river. Beyond that, however, the storyline is oblique. The long opening track, “Jim,” follows the classic arc form of spontaneous improvisation: It starts slowly and quietly as the players circle warily and test each other, builds inexorably in volume and passion, reaches a sudden climax and dissipates into quiet resolve, punctuated by clocklike chiming from Bergman. It then builds in intensity once again, ending with a chaotic blast.

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