December 13, 1926|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 18, 2012
New York, U.S.
Borah Bergman (December 13, 1926 – October 18, 2012) was an American free jazz pianist.
Training and influences
Bergman was born in Brooklyn to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. His grandfather Meir Pergamenick was a cantor. Accounts of when he began to learn the piano vary: some assert that he learned clarinet as a child and did not commence his piano studies until adulthood; others, that he had piano lessons from a young age; one of his own accounts is that he took piano lessons as a child, then changed to clarinet, before returning to piano after being discharged from the army. As an adult, he developed his left hand playing to the point where he became essentially ambidextrous as a pianist, and could play equally fast in both hands, and they could act completely independently of each other; Bergman himself preferred the term "ambi-ideation" to "ambidextrous", as it conveyed the added ability to express ideas achieved when both hands were equal. Bergman cited Earl Hines, Bud Powell, and Lennie Tristano as formative influences, although his own style was based on free improvisation rather than song form. Commenting on his other influences, Bergman said that "I was influenced strongly by Ornette Coleman... I was also very influenced by chamber music and Bach and Dixieland or New Orleans, where all of the instruments were playing contrapuntally and polyphonically. So I figured I'd like to do it myself".
Performance and recordings
Until the 1970s he played little in public, concentrating on private practice and his work as a school teacher. He recorded four albums as a soloist, most notably on the European label Soul Note, before embarking on duo and trio albums from the 1990s. A small number of solo and quartet albums were also released from the mid-1990s. The style for which he is best known is described in The Penguin guide to jazz recordings: "His astonishing solo performances recall the 'two pianists' illusion associated with Art Tatum, though in a more fragmentary and disorderly sound-world".
- Discovery (Chiaroscuro Records, 1975)
- Bursts of Joy (Chiaroscuro Records, 1976)
- A New Frontier (Soul Note, 1983)
- Upside Down Visions (Soul Note, 1984)
- The Fire Tale with Evan Parker (Soul Note, 1990)
- Inversions with Thomas Chapin (Muworks, 1992)
- The Human Factor with Andrew Cyrille (Soul Note, 1993)
- First Meeting with Roscoe Mitchell and Thomas Buckner (Knitting Factory, 1994)
- The Italian Concert with Roscoe Mitchell (Soul Note, 1994)
- The October Revolution with Joe McPhee, Rashied Ali and Wilber Morris (Evidence, 1994)
- Reflections on Ornette Coleman and the Stone House with Hamid Drake (Soul Note, 1995)
- Blue Zoo with Thomas Borgmann and Peter Brötzmann (Konnex Records, 1996)
- Eight By Three with Anthony Braxton and Peter Brötzmann (Mixtery Records, 1996)
- Geometry with Ivo Perelman (Leo Records, 1997)
- Ride Into the Blue with Thomas Borgmann and Peter Brötzmann (Konnex Records, 1996)
- Exhilaration with Peter Brötzmann and Andrew Cyrille (Soul Note, 1997)
- Ikosa Mura with Frode Gjerstad, Bobby Bradford and Pheeroan akLaff (Cadence, 1997)
- New Organization with Oliver Lake (Soul Note, 1997)
- Toronto 1997 with Thomas Chapin (Boxholder Records, 1997)
- The River of Sounds with Conny Bauer and Mat Maneri (Boxholder Records, 2001)
- The Double Idea (Boxholder Records, 2002)
- The Mahout with George Haslam and Paul Hession (Slam, 2003)
- Meditations for Piano (Tzadik Records, 2003)
- Rivers in Time with Frode Gjerstad (FMR Records, 2003)
- Acts of Love with Lol Coxhill and Paul Hession (Mutable Music, 2005)
- One More Time with Giorgio Dini (Silta Records, 2007)
- Live at Tortona with Stefano Pastor (Mutable Music, 2009)
- Luminescence with Greg Cohen, Kenny Wollesen and John Zorn (Tzadik Records, 2009)
- Obituary by Christoph Wagner (German)
- Obituary in Wire
- Kelsey, Chris (December 2004) Chris Kelsey Borah Bergman: His Fatha's Son. JazzTimes.
- Borah Bergman: Meditations for Piano
- Kelsey, Chris Artist Biography. AllMusic. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
- Borah Bergman: You Must Judge a Man by the Work of His Hands (November 4, 2005) All About Jazz.
- Polillo, Arrigo. In A New Frontier [CD liner notes]. Soul Note.
- Cook, Richard & Morton, Brian (2008) The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.), p. 116. Penguin.