Judith Berkson – Oylam

[This review was first published in Jazz Journal in 2010.]

Judith Berkson (v, p, elp, org)

Goodbye Friend No.1
Brute
Inside Good Times
Clives
All of You
Mi Re Do
Ahavas Oylam
Little Arrows
Der Leiermann
Fallen Innocent Wandering Thieves
They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Burn
Hulyet, Hulyet
Goodbye Friend No.2
(49.08)

2010
ECM 2718954

In such a broad church as Jazz, there are many sects (some perhaps heretical) and this may be a new one. A combination of eccentric originals, off-kilter show tunes, Holocaust music and Hebrew liturgy, all filtered through the voice and piano of Judith Berkson.

Stately, even serious to begin with, around the middle of the second track the mood changes abruptly to repetitive and quirky, spelling out the soon to be heard vocal melody. From then on, the whole album is a series of jump cuts between styles and moods: odd, nursery rhyme-ish, inventive and occasionally exhausting. If you don’t like this sort of thing then “Oylam” is unlikely to change your mind; if you do then strap in, it’s quite a ride.

“Oylam” is available from ECM and Amazon: