Josh Berman & His Gang | Szold Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Jazz | Chicago Reader
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Josh Berman & His Gang 

When: Sun., Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m. 2012
Price: $15
Cornetist Josh Berman has developed this terrific octet in fits and starts over the past five years. It began as a relatively explicit tribute to the spirit if not exactly the style of the Austin High Gang, a group of white west-side musicians that included Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland, and Frank Teschemacher (plus New Yorker Eddie Condon later on) and helped develop a distinctively Chicagoan style of jazz in the 1920s; since then Berman and company have turned the band into something thoroughly modern, ingesting their source material and preserving its character while creating something wholly new. Five of the pieces on their fantastic debut, There Now (Delmark), were favorites of the Austin High Gang—the other three are Berman originals—but the band avoids imitating the rhythms, vocabulary, and other hallmarks of trad jazz. The lineup is packed with players who've internalized such traditional sounds into contemporary styles, so that they can dig into and transform standards such as "Love Is Just Around the Corner," "Liza," and "I've Found a New Baby"—they might scramble the original structure, write a new section based on a solo from a vintage recording, or slyly introduce a song's familiar opening theme only after some fresh material or improvisation. The talent on hand is impressive: trombonist Jeb Bishop, clarinetist Guillermo Gregorio, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, bassist Joshua Abrams, drummer Frank Rosaly, and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz. Berman gives Adasiewicz a gift on "One Train May Hide Another," namely a generous chunk of solo space—in which the vibist sets aside his usual raucousness and aggression to take a tender, gorgeous turn. —Peter Margasak



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