Borah Bergman – Stefano Pastor
Live at Tortona
Pianist Borah Bergman’s signature style employs both hands with dizzying ambidexterity. Bergman’s rigorous practice routine creates what he calls ambi-ideation: “each hand can go in its own way when it wants to.” His ambitious improvisations are equally freed from technical and ideological constraints. Although steeped in bebop and post-bop traditional styles, Bergman can also let rip cacophonous free jazz with the best shredders out there.
Bergman is joined by violinist Stefano Pastor for a 2007 live date in Tortona, Italy. Three compositions by Bergman, and two duo improvisations, underline the pianist’s dualistic division of labor between honeyed bebop and frenetic free playing. Some passages of his composition “Spirit Song” adopt a balladic lyricism imparted with yearning, sostenuto beauty; elsewhere, he prefers dissonant runs and bellicose clusters. “Wellspring” incorporates the blindingly fast uptempo harmonic changes of bop with a hyperambidexterity that makes the listener apt to do a double take, checking the liner notes to see if this is for piano four-hands.
Pastor proves a worthy foil for Bergman. Apt to bend a pitch rather than leave it statically squared in the middle, he revels in microtones and attacks bravura passages with an acid-toned eschewal of neo-romanticism. Like the pianist, he is steeped in traditional jazz styles, but is able both to adopt and, in turn, parody their conventions with equal believability. A baldly triadic passage in “Spirit Song” finds Pastor lampooning simple major-chord arpeggios before setting off on a skittering chromatic solo – one envisions an impish grin on the violinist’s face. On “Wellspring,” he matches Bergman sixteenth note for sixteenth note down the breakneck home stretch of the piece’s climax. His violin keens cantorially on the effervescent set-closer the “Mighty Oak,” providing a sinuous pedal against Bergman’s cadenza-like riffs. One hopes that this is merely the beginning of a series of collaborations for this formidable pair.