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Berkson, Judith: Oylam

American pianist and composer Judith Berkson first released her debut album Lu Lu in 2008 and is back with her brand new CD Oylam, her first release on Germany's ECM Records. This is a true solo album as Berkson is the only player providing vocals, piano, Wurlitzer, Rhodes piano and Hammond organ. She draws from a number of styles including Jewish cantorial music and while most of these songs are original compositions she does throw in a couple of jazz standards - Porter's "All of You" and George and Ira Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me".

The music on Oylam, which means "world, universe, creation, reality, realm", is both evocative and captivating. Her music bears more than a nod to avant-jazz and her piano playing often conveys broodingly poignant melodies with a sound that is both esoteric and highly listenable. It can be a sad album at times as demonstrated by the first song "Goodbye Girlfriend Number One" filled with melancholy piano and just a little dissonance. Her piano playing swells with intensity before lighter strokes calm everything down making this a common theme throughout the song. Besides piano, many of these tracks also feature her unusual vocal style that she often uses in unison with her piano. She has a strong soprano voice and like her piano playing is worth listening to. Check out Berkson's vocals in "Inside Good Times" and "Mi Re Do" where her scat-like musings are perfectly in sync with her daft piano motifs. With "Ahavas Oylam" Berkson returns to Jewish cantorial music, with a pensive organ melody that is quite dark complementing her somber vocals.

Two of my favourite songs include the Porter standard "All Of You" with a longing piano melody and sultry vocals and Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me" that she energizes with excellent piano playing. Both songs hold up to the original versions rather well.

This is another classy recording courtesy of ECM. Judith Berkson should provide plenty of enjoyment for those who prefer to delve into idiosyncratic avant-garde jazz recordings or if you just dig voice accompanied piano music.


Track Listing:
1. Goodbye Friend Number One (2:52)
2. Brute (5:33)
3. Inside Good Times (2:35)
4. Clives (2:31)
5. All Of You (4:43)
6. Mi Re Do (3:42)
7. Ahavas Oylam (3:36)
8. Little Arrows (2:24)
9. Der Leiermann (3:38)
10. Fallen Innocent Wandering Thieves (2:20)
11. They Can't Take That Away From Me (3:33)
12. Burnt (3:00)
13. Hulyet, Hulyet (4:10)
14. Goodbye Friend Number Two (3:49)

Added: June 13th 2010
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Score:
Related Link: Artist's Official Site
Hits: 1045
Language: english

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