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Album Review

Piano-guitar duets are a rare beast in a jazz setting and can quickly turn ugly if cooperation isn't at the forefront. Most memorable piano-guitar recording sessions involved the meeting of two masters, such as Bill Evans with Jim Hall and Oscar Peterson with Joe Pass. But guitarist Frank Potenza and pianist Shelly Berg not only know how to blend together and give each other breathing room for solos, but they are definitely masters of their instruments as well. All of the performances are in real time; nearly every one is a first take, with no overdubs or editing. Potenza gained national notice as a member of the final edition of the Gene Harris Quartet, while Berg drew critical acclaim for his ambitious CD tribute to Oscar Peterson (teaming up with ex-Peterson sidemen Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen), while both men have greatly contributed to jazz education through their teaching at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. While they have often played duo performances live, this is the first documentation of their duo work. "Wonder Why," a gem of a song that has been all but ignored for a long time, is a perfect example of how easily they trade off with one another in a jaunty setting. Following it is a brisk, playful take of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," in which Berg shows off his considerable stride chops a bit, though they also incorporate a bit of bop. Potenza's fluid attack is a highlight of Thad Jones' "Three and One," while their rollicking revival of Ray Bryant's unjustly obscure cooker "Tonk" has plenty of soul. Berg's "Oil and Water," the sole original of the date, is full of sudden twists. This brilliant musical partnership is one that not only merits a follow-up recording, but a series of such outings.

Biography

Born: Cleveland, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Although he has achieved some recognition as the president of the International Association of Jazz Educators and as a teacher, Shelly Berg's powerhouse piano playing has thus far been generally overlooked due to him not recording often enough. Inspired by his father, trumpeter Jay Berg, Shelly, at the age of six, was accepted at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He started playing professionally when he was 13, playing both classical music and jazz. Moving to Houston with his family when he was...
Full bio
First Takes, Shelly Berg
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 01 January 2005

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