The title of “Old Friends and New Friends,” the latest release from award-winning pianist/composer David Berkman, refers specifically to the exceptional sextet that he assembled for the recording. The band joins two members of Berkman’s recently formed quartet—saxophonist Dayna Stephens and bassist Linda Oh—with three renowned musicians who can definitely be considered old friends: drummer Brian Blade, who appeared on three of Berkman’s albums in the late ‘90s and early 2000s; and saxophonists Adam Kolker and Billy Drewes, both of whom Berkman has known for more than 30 years. The disc also reunites Berkman with Palmetto Records founder Matt Balitsaris, who issued four of the pianist’s CDs between 1998 and 2004.
A certain naturalism and hard-earned grace run through the compositions and playing of Cyrus Chestnut, the Baltimore-bred modern-mainstream player best known for his work as a resourceful solo pianist and dynamic ensemble leader. Those qualities shine through again on “A Million Colors in Your Mind,” his first recording as a leader on the High Note label. Gospel-blues shades color several pieces and Chestnut slides easily from lush Art Tatum-like voicings to austere single note statements, from Powell-like flurries of scales to two-handed forays into Jaki Byard territory. With bassist David Williams and drummer Victor Lewis, Chestnut delivers ten great tunes and puts his own unique spin on all of them.
Also this week, veteran trombonist Bob McChesney is joined by keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Bill Stewart and saxophonist Bob Mintzer on “Chez Sez”; organist Jared Gold, a highlight of last summer’s jazz festival in Iowa City, delivers “Metropolitan Rhythm”; and Dallas-based drummer Stockton Helbing offers up a new suite of tunes in honor of modernist jewelry artist Arthur Smith on “Patina.”