Bengt Berger

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Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger here wanders a slightly different path from that explored on his previous albums with his Bitter Funeral Beer band. While still utilizing motifs based on West African, specifically Ghanaian, themes, Berger pares the ensemble down to eight and goes for a jazzier ambience.

The album opens and closes with an Ornette Coleman composition, fittingly titled "The Opener/Closer," jauntily performed first as simply the short theme itself, later as a small, tight elaboration on same. Surprisingly, especially for listeners aware of his earlier work, the second track is Offenbach's "La Belle Helen," walked through in drunken good nature. Much of the rest of the disc contains songs with vaguely or explicitly African themes, but is used more as traditional jazz "heads" for improvisation rather than as hypnotic, repeating lines that remain part of the constant, underlying fabric of the piece. If this approach results in less gripping and ecstatic material than on, for example, the Bitter Funeral Beer album, it stills allows for a relatively fresh jazz session that fans of Johnny Dyani or Abdullah Ibrahim might well enjoy. All of the musicians are in control of their instruments and execute Berger's charts with confidence; perhaps soprano saxophonist Roland Keisjer stands out the most strongly with his fluid work on "Penye Gahu."

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