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Glasgow Art Club, 19 January 2012

When David Berkman last played Glasgow, the thing which stuck out about his set was the quality of his compositions. This time round, the emphasis was much more on Berkman the piano player. We still got some fine originals, including dedications to trumpeter Tom Harrell and pianist Kenny Kirkland, but at least half the performance was taken up by (often radically-reworked) standards, including “How High the Moon”, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, and a darkly dramatic “Desafinado” which made much of a repeated set of chords from Berkman’s left hand.

Berkman has a very interesting piano style: there’s a crisp propulsive sound to some of his chording reminiscent of Duke Ellington, but this is part of an overall musical language which owes much more to the post-bop mainstream than to the stripped down Ellington-Monk approach. He got very good suppport from the remaining members of the trio, Martin Zenker on bass and Rick Hollander on drums, who provided him with strong, generally unobtrusive, backing and contributed decent solos when required. Hollander had a technique which meant you could hear every note he played. He didn’t hammer away at the drums, but gave crisp flicks which meant that even the most delicate tap of a drum or brush of a cymbal sounded out into every corner of the room.

Overall, a most enjoyable gig. It’s a great pity that funding problems mean that there are likely to be fewer of this sort of mid-scale concert in the near future. There are more informal pub gigs for young musicians than there were a few years back, and the large scale concerts put on by the SNJO and Glasgow Jazz Festival are still there, but it’s a sad loss not to be able to hear good but not big-name players from outside Scotland as often as we used to.

Rob Adams gave the previous night’s gig in Edinburgh a four-star review in the Herald, and if you want to find out more about David Berkman, there’s an interesting interview with him on the Jazztruth web site.