In a case of the hometown boy turning some heads in the big city, Cleveland native David Berkman has managed to make a splash in the often-choppy waters of New York's downtown jazz scene. Since moving to the Big Apple in 1985, the pianist-composer has performed extensively with a growing list of jazz luminaries, including Cecil McBee, Tom Harrell, and Dick Oatts.
Ripe from numerous sideman gigs, Berkman's muse as a leader was first revealed in 1998, when he hooked up with Palmetto Records and cut Handmade. The recently released Leaving Home, Berkman's third set for the label, might be his most mature statement yet, overflowing with dark and quixotic melodies that are the antithesis of the kind of hard bop swingers penned by many of his peers. Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome speaks in characteristic tones, with a taste of Wayne Shorter thrown in the mix, while Berkman confidently expresses his individuality in a way that manages to move the music forward at a time when many are bemoaning jazz's declining returns.
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