Tag Archives: Josh Berman

Paris Transatlantic review by Steve Griffith

Lucky 7s – Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
One of the more inspiring, albeit lesser known, stories related to Hurricane Katrina is the formation of the Lucky 7s. The storm’s devastation broke up trombonist Jeff Albert’s quartet, as drummer Quin Kirchner relocated to Chicago (along with his frequent musical associate, bassist Matthew Golombisky). Although Jeff stood his water-soaked ground, gigs were still nonexistent in the ravaged city, so he contacted fellow trombonist Jeb Bishop about pulling together some kindred souls from Chicago along with Quin and Matt, resulting in rehearsals and subsequent performances at The Empty Bottle and The Hungry Brain. The final night at the latter venue made up six of the seven songs on Farragut, a rollicking disc that entertained the fortunate few that were able to find it on Lakefront Digital. For those afraid the 2006 disc was just a one-off release, Pluto Junkyard marks a considerable step forward, with more tightly arranged compositions and release on a higher exposure label.

The presence of Jason Adasiewicz’s shimmery vibes and the hot tenor of Keefe Jackson gives the Lucky 7s the air of a Blue Note offering from back in the days when they were pairing fire-breathing saxophonists with Bobby Hutcherson. There’s no diminution of energy from the first release: “Future Dog” transitions from one funk riff to another, and the sonic meltdown of “The Dan Hang” marks the welcome reappearance of Bishop’s skronky guitar (and if this is truly representative of what is played at The Hungry Brain after-hours, please get some sound people there immediately). The most noticeable difference is that this release has no overtly N’Awlins-influenced music, in the manner of the second-line-ish drumming on the closing “Bucktown Special” on Farragut (the one exception, Bishop’s “Afterwards”, was actually written for the previous recording); in fact, the closing “Sunny’s Bounce” is a clear nod to the Chicago sound, written by Albert after hearing a Sun Ra Delmark recording on an iTunes shuffle (hmmmm, on a release titled Pluto…).

But the real muse of this release seems to be Bishop’s wife, Jaki Cellini: her reaction to Jeb’s promise to get her a pet provided the title of Albert’s “Future Dog,” and Bishop’s cool bopping “Jaki’s Walk” was actually their wedding’s recessional music. Here’s to the bright future of the couple as well as the Lucky 7s.
http://www.paristransatlantic.com/magazine/monthly2010/02feb_text.html#8

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

LUCKY 7S – Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
Please welcome a truly brilliant septet which features – somewhat bizarrely – two lead trombonists (Jeb Bishop and Jeff Albert) and performs conspicuously intricate, ear-rewarding compositions, intelligibly articulated in invigorating swiftness, the cleverness of the arrangements at a persistently remarkable level. The rest of the lineup consists of Josh Berman (cornet), Keefe Jackson (tenor sax), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), Matthew Golombisky (bass) and Quin Kirchner (drums).

This is easily one of the finest albums to come out of Pedro Costa’s imprint in the last year or so; persuasive compositions, nearly palpable structural mass, the instrumental delineation neat as a new pin. A refined complexity is deployed with judiciousness, never intended as a means to leave people impressed with pathetic flurries of bells and whistles. Illegitimacy and fury get channelled in energizing flows brimming with authority and, in a way, pressure. There’s something in these kids – look at those great faces inside the sleeve – which makes me think to each one’s different upbringing, to the juvenile (and probably ongoing) enthusiasm that was felt while practicing at home, dreaming of living a musician’s life in search of the purest mental freedom. You know what? Judging from Pluto Junkyard they succeeded, reinforcing the assumption according to which a mixture of precise directives and good-natured anarchy is the best weapon against cerebral stagnancy. Oh, and the rocking blowout “The Dan Hang” must be heard to believe: heavy riffage, muscular drumming and fuming squealing by an armada of clairvoyant pilgrims.

Had this writer been a po-faced Downbeat contributor, he’d have given this 70-minute CD four stars and a half. Being myself instead just a non-corporative nihilist bear amused by ordinary people’s illusions, who also happens to instantly recognize if an artist – and, in general, a person – is worth of a shufti, trust my words: Lucky 7s kick ass. Even if when they swing.
http://touchingextremes.blogspot.com/2010/01/pluto-junkyard-lucky-7s.html

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Canini

Lucky 7s – Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
Valutazione: 4.5 stelle
Un po’ Chicago, un po’ New Orleans. Sono in sette, si fanno chiamare Lucky 7s e il qui recensito Pluto Junkyard, pubblicato dalla benemerita Clean Feed, è il loro secondo CD all’attivo (il primo, Farragut, è uscito per la piccola Lakefront Digital, praticamente roba da carbonari). Un po’ Chicago e un po’ New Orleans, si diceva, perchè il gruppo nasce dall’incontro fra due trombonisti: Jeff Albert, dopo il 2005 in fuga dalla Louisiana e dall’uragano Katrina verso l’Illinois, e Jeb Bishop, quasi veterano della scena di Chicago, fedele scudiero di Ken Vandermark in tante battaglie. Con loro una sezione ritmica targata New Orleans, composta dal batterista Quin Kirkchner e dal bassista Matthew Golombisky, e un terzetto di rappresentanti della “nuova” Chicago (nipote dell’AACM, figlia del post-rock, svezzata da gente come Vandermark e Mazurek): il sassofonista Keefe Jackson, il vibrafonista Jason Adasiewicz (nome da appuntare: talento immenso) e il cornettista Josh Berman.
Musica d’incroci quella dei Lucky 7s, musica che colpisce fin da subito per incisività della scrittura e cura degli arrangiamenti, qualità dei contributi solistici e imprevedibilità-varietà delle soluzioni ritmico-armoniche. Il respiro complessivo è quello tipico della Chicago odierna, tanto Vandermark (l’iniziale “#6,” con quell’attacco bruciante e il doppio tema-doppio riffone, e “Future Dog,” che su un disco degli School Days ci sarebbe stata alla grande), un pizzico di AACM (“Ash,” introduzione solenne, avvio pulsante, crescendo implacabile e sviluppo che prende in contropiede), una spruzzata di Sun Ra (l’oscura “Afterwards”); ma negli svolazzi della composita front-line (quattro fiati) non è difficile rintracciare (sarà una suggestione?) un che di New Orleans, se non altro nei contrasti-contrappunti tra la cornetta di Berman e la coppia di tromboni, che spesso assolvono compiti strettamente ritmici.     

Ma le suggestioni non sono finite, perchè “Sunny Bounce” offre una gioiosa ventata di gusto retrò (il primissimo Sun Ra? L’Oliver Nelson metà Sessanta?), mentre “Jaki’s Walk” riesce a suonare persino latin con quel suo incedere sinuoso e ostinato. Cima Coppi dell’intera scaletta, la strepitosa “The Dan Hang,” che si apre con un nervoso botta e risposta tra sax-cornetta da una parte e il trombone di Albert dall’altra. Sulla fitta trama si innesta la sezione ritmica: basso pulsante, batteria martellante, vibrafono etereo. Ci pensano poi le sei corde di Bishop (trombonista, ma anche valente chitarrista) a far esplodere il tutto in un crescendo noise, fino a quando il pezzo decolla ritmicamente, diventando qualcosa di molto simile a un’outtake dei Jaga Jazzist.

Notevole, come tutto il disco. Anzi, imperdibile.
http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=4715

Jazz’n’More review by Jürg Solothurnmann

CF 141LUCKY 7s – Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
****

Ein Blech-dominiertes Bläserquartett und eine Rhythmusgruppe mit Vibraphon im Vordergrund. Für dieses eklektische Septett der neuen Chicagoer Generation haben besonders die Ko-Leader Bishop und Albert (aus New Orleans) und der Schlagzeuger Kirchner aufwendige Stücke mit allerlei Elementen von Postbop, New Jazz und Free Jazz komponiert. Da hat es Mehrthematik und arrangierte Backgrounds und Zwischenspiele, manchmal mehr mit dem Gusto einer satt klingenden Brass Band und manchmal wie moderne Kammermusik. Sie dienen als Schaltstellen und verhindern, dass sich einfach Solo an Solo reiht. Neu ist weniger der Stil als der vielfältige Einsatz der Mittel. Die Gangart und Stimmung ändern oft –mit verschmitztem Humor oder auch etwas zusammenhangslos, und improvisiert wird ebenso unbegleitet wie in Gruppierungen zu zweit, zu dritt und mehr. Zwei Posaunisten als Leader, das ist auch nicht so üblich, aber sie wissen etwas damit anzufangen. Doch irgendwie scheint die gerissene Mache dieser Divertimenti auch zu verhindern, dass die guten Ensemblespieler und Solisten mal richtig loslegen.

Le Son du Grisli review by Pierre Lemarchand

CF 141Lucky 7’s – Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
De la rencontre entre des musiciens de Chicago et de la Nouvelle Orléans résulte la musique jouée par le groupe Lucky 7s. Les chicagoans (Josh Berman au cornet, Keefe Jackson au sax ténor, Jeb Bishop au trombone) empruntent les sentiers défrichés par le saxophoniste Ken Vandermark quand les orléanais (Jeff Albert au trombone, Quin Kirchner à la batterie, Matthew Golombisky à la contrebasse) prolongent l’art du batteur Ed Blackwell.

Les mélodies sont ici amplement développées, tout en sinuosité et sophistication, et les compositions, empruntes d’une certaine abstraction, se détournent des schémas classiques (thème – improvisation – thème) pour proposer des suites de mouvements distincts, aux ambiances changeantes (Afterwards). Et les changements sont tels que l’on peut vite se retrouver sur les terres du rock indépendant (The Dan Hang). Mais cette approche contemporaine et toute chicagoane se mêle joyeusement au swing pulsé par la rythmique de nos orléanais, encore ébouriffés par le vent mauvais de Katrina.

La conciliation de ces deux univers semble être incarnée par le vibraphone de Jason Adasiewicz (remarquable comme toujours), dont les notes assurent tantôt l’harmonie et le rythme, tantôt les échappées belles en des terrains plus incertains. On pourrait dire que la musique des Lucky 7s est cinématographique, dans le sens où elle développe d’amples mouvements, comme l’on cadre de grands espaces, et resserre parfois sa focale pour faire surgir des personnalités en des soli effrénés, perturbant l’apparent calme offert par des musiciens quelques secondes auparavant à l’unisson. Mais, au final, le collectif prime finalement sur les individus (ici, la notion de leader est rejetée) et la joie de jouer ensemble déborde du début à la fin de ce disque.
http://www.lesondugrisli.com/

eJazznews review by Glenn Astarita

CF 141Lucky 7s – Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
This upbeat and nicely in-your-face and ears Chicago-based septet projects a thoroughly happening vibe. They flush out all the non-essentials, and get to matters rather expeditiously amid a buoyant group-centric mode of operations. Members of this band are frequent collaborators with cutting-edge Chicago reedman Ken Vandermark, as the ensemble conveys that hip and pulsating progressive-jazz aura amid treks into the free-zone.

With perky horns, crisp swing vamps and investigative group dialogues, the band abides by a get-up-and-go demeanor. They vary the flows amid an abundance of contrasts and textural maneuvers. At times, the hornists’ transmit notions of a little big band at work as the musicians’ scrappy interplay is prominently generated via muscular phrasings and spunky jazz-rock passages.

They integrate regimented, classical type charts with lyrically resplendent choruses and wily metrics. Vibist Jason Adasiewicz is a colorist and strong soloist who shades and complements the multifarious rhythmic components. Along with a few discordant meltdowns, the band renders brash choruses and a driving impetus, evidenced on the punishing piece titled “The Dan Hang.” Here, tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson goes for the proverbial jugular as the rhythm section kicks it into high-gear. Among other positive attributes, it’s one of the most exciting progressive-jazz outings I’ve heard all year.
http://www.ejazznews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=10568

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins

CF 141Lucky 7’s –  Pluto Junkyard (CF 141)
The brainchild of trombonists Jeb Bishop and Jeff Albert, the Lucky 7’s are a consummate example of post-Vandermark Chicago-based collectivism. Bishop’s longstanding work with fellow artists such as Rob Mazurek, Ted Sirota and Ken Vandermark informs his inside-outside approach, lending a forward thinking but historically aware sensibility to this versatile mid-sized ensemble. A New Orleans native, Albert brings the weight of his hometown’s history to play in this rousing septet, finding common ground between Big Easy swagger and Windy City muscle.

Joining Bishop and Albert on the brass heavy front line is the veteran performing duo of cornetist Josh Berman and tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson. Together with Bishop and Albert they form an engaging horn section, unfurling pointillist explorations one minute and rousing Second Line riffs the next. Vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and former New Orleans residents bassist Matthew Golombisky and drummer Quin Kirchner comprise the swinging rhythm section, with Adasiewicz’s scintillating accents amplifying the unit’s unique tonality.

Pluto Junkyard is their sophomore effort, following their 2006 debut Farragut (Lakefront Digital). The majority of the pieces are written by Bishop or Albert, with one each from Jackson and Kirchner. Eschewing conventional AABA forms and head-solo-head structures, these episodic tunes feature an array of advanced compositional devices. Shifting tempos, fluctuating rhythms and unexpected bridges, turnarounds and codas yield a string of dynamic mood changes. Vibrant bouts of controlled collective improvisation and effusive unaccompanied horn cadenzas materialize repeatedly throughout the album, revealing conceptual parallels between Chicago-based, AACM-oriented free improvisation and New Orleans-styled polyphony.

Extrapolating the advancements of Post-War jazz with an infectious blend of contrapuntal invention and elastic freedom, many of the tunes invoke the seminal efforts of visionaries like Andrew Hill, Oliver Nelson and George Russell. The album’s second half maintains this abstract yet accessible approach with a few stylistic detours, including “Future Dog (For Jaki)” which vacillates between collective freedom and funky Afro-Latin grooves, and Albert’s introspective post-Katrina meditation “Afterwards.” The coruscating power chords that fuel “The Dan Hang” feature Bishop tearing into his rarely played electric guitar, while “Sunny’s Bounce” is a joyous, in-the-pocket ode to Sun Ra’s early Delmark sides, closing the album on a high note.

Approaching classic New Orleans traditions from a modernist perspective, the Lucky 7’s challenge preconceived notions about contemporary brass bands. An excellent offering from the fertile Chicago-New Orleans axis, Pluto Junkyard presents a compelling vision of the future, informed by the past.
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=33259