Jeff Berlin: In Harmony’s Way

Some of the laudable artists who appear on bassist Jeff Berlin’s In Harmony’s Way were prominent in the fusion movement, but this CD is an agreeable, straightahead swinging session. The CD’s core group contains drummer Danny Gottlieb and pianist/bassist Richard Drexler. Guest appearances are made by guitarist Mike Stern and tenor/soprano saxman Dave Liebman on three tracks each, and there are cameo roles for vibist Gary Burton and keyboardist Clare Fischer. On two tracks a three-man horn section fleshes out the band.

Berlin gets a lot of solo room and makes good use of it. He improvises long, relaxed guitarlike lines and paces himself intelligently, resolving ideas logically. Drexler plays powerful, but not particularly original piano spots, which seem to have been influenced by Chick Corea. By his own standards Liebman improvises pretty well; he’s exciting but not especially inventive. Something of the same thing could be said of Stern: he plays a lot of notes, which, at times, could’ve been more judiciously chosen. Gottlieb doesn’t draw a lot of attention to himself in the rhythm section, but he really helps keep things together and on track throughout the disc.