Made up of some very fine Minneapolis-St. Paul based jazz players, Ed Berger's Jazz All Stars quickly remind the listener of those great sax dominated small groups of the 1960s which were the staples of Prestige, OJC, and other jazz labels of that era. These were groups which featured such saxophone giants like Wardell Gray, pre-modern Lee Konitz, Sonny Stitt, and James Moody, to mention just a few. I'm Glad There Is You is a pleasing throwback to those days. This, the All Stars' maiden album, has a playlist of standards plus one composition by Berger. Like those earlier combos, Berger introduces and plays the melody fairly straight for the first chorus. Then each member of the group gets a chance for some extended improvisation, with the final chorus a restatement of the melody. This musical methodology is solidly demonstrated in the title tune, "I'm Glad There Is You," and on an extended play of "Change Partners." Though living in Minneapolis since the '60s, Berger grew up in Philadelphia where he was exposed to and indelibly influenced by those giants of the saxophone who lived and played there: Jimmy Heath, John Coltrane (an expatriate from North Carolina at a very early age), Dexter Gordon, and Stan Getz, among others. A true child of bop, Berger's alto is urgent, driving, and fast, whipping through chord changes at breakneck speed. Though lyrical, even his playing on ballads like "The Lamp Is Low" has a bite to it. In fact, you even hear Berger instructing the group to play this tune in more of a bebop style. Mikkel Romstad's minimalist playing, Tom Lewis' Percy Heath-like bass, and Phil Hey's influential but relatively subdued (for a bebop group) drums, provide over an hour's worth of straight-ahead bop. Nothing very fancy here, just good, solid musicianship by a group of players well versed (and rehearsed) in this jazz genre.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan