Borah Bergman

The Human Factor

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Borah Bergman is perhaps the most technically accomplished pianist in jazz -- and if he's not at the top, then he's certainly on a short list of two. Bergman's probably best known for his extreme ambidexterity; his left hand is as melodically active as his right, to the point that the pianist frequently crosses them, one over the other, as he plays. Of course, Bergman's incredible technique sets him apart, but more of what makes him such a consummate improviser is his sense of organization within a free context. Bergman plays with a rhythmic insistence that's unlike virtually any other improviser on any instrument. He has an almost obsessive manner of motivic development that both holds together the music and moves it forward. On this set of duets with the very able percussionist Andrew Cyrille, Bergman's treatment of "Chasin' the Trane" is a quintessential example. Throughout his densely percussive improvisation, the pianist interpolates fragments of Coltrane's melody, using them concurrently as a point of reference and as source material for further elaboration. The result is an unusually well-balanced music that sounds almost as if it could have been composed, were it not for the essential spontaneity and intensity lent by the improvising's reflexive nature. It seems as if most of Bergman's recorded performances have been duos; this one with Cyrille is as good as any, which is to say that it's quite marvelous. The drummer is everything a Bergman foil needs to be -- sensitive and reactive, with an almost boundless range. Cyrille complements Bergman's various guises, whether it be the rather blunt, slightly skewed romanticism of the pianist's ballad "When Autumn Comes" or the fervent tumult of the two versions of "Chasin' the Trane." A superb teaming, and a terrific album.

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