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Borah Bergman

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Borah Bergman
Background information
Born(1926-12-13)December 13, 1926
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedOctober 18, 2012(2012-10-18) (aged 85)
New York, U.S.[1]
GenresFree jazz
Years active1975–2012

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.[2][3] His grandfather Meir Pergamenick was a cantor.[4] 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;[5] others, that he had piano lessons from a young age;[3] 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.[6] 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,[5] and they could act completely independently of each other;[7] Bergman himself preferred the term "ambi-ideation" to "ambidextrous", as it conveyed the added ability to express ideas achieved when both hands were equal.[6] Bergman cited Earl Hines, Bud Powell,[3] and Lennie Tristano[7] 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".[6]

Performance and recordings


Until the 1970s he played little in public, concentrating on private practice and his work as a school teacher.[3] 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".[8]



As leader/co-leader

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1975? Discovery Chiaroscuro Solo piano
1976? Bursts of Joy Chiaroscuro Solo piano
1983 A New Frontier Soul Note Solo piano
1984 Upside Down Visions Soul Note Solo piano
1990 The Fire Tale Soul Note Duo, with Evan Parker (soprano sax)
1992 Inversions Muworks Duo, with Thomas Chapin (alto sax, saxello)
1992 The Human Factor Soul Note Duo, with Andrew Cyrille (drums)
1994 First Meeting Knitting Factory Most tracks duo, with Roscoe Mitchell (alto sax, soprano sax); some tracks trio, with Thomas Buckner (vocals) added
1994 The October Revolution Evidence Quartet, with Joe McPhee (tenor saxophone, flugelhorn), Wilber Morris (bass), Rashied Ali (drums); in concert
1994–95 The Italian Concert Soul Note Duo, with Roscoe Mitchell (alto sax, soprano sax)
1995 Reflections on Ornette Coleman and the Stone House Soul Note Duo, with Hamid Drake (drums)
1996 Eight By Three Mixtery Trio, with Anthony Braxton and Peter Brötzmann (reeds)
1996 Monks some real music Trio, with Wilber Morris and Sunny Murray
1996 Geometry Leo Duo, with Ivo Perelman (tenor sax)
1996 Blue Zoo Konnex Trio, with Thomas Borgmann (tenor sax), Peter Brötzmann (alto sax, tarogato)
1996 Ride into the Blue Konnex Trio, with Thomas Borgmann (tenor sax), Peter Brötzmann (alto sax, tarogato)
1996 Left Not Two Trio, with Peter Brötzmann (tenor sax, clarinet, tarogato), Frode Gjerstad (alto sax)
1996–97 Exhilaration Soul Note Trio, with Peter Brötzmann (alto sax), Andrew Cyrille (drums)
1997? Ikosa Mura Cadence with Frode Gjerstad, Bobby Bradford and Pheeroan akLaff
1997 A New Organization Soul Note Duo, with Oliver Lake (alto sax); in concert
1997 Toronto 1997 Boxholder Duo, with Thomas Chapin (sax, flute)
2000 The River of Sounds Boxholder Trio, with Conny Bauer (trombone), Mat Maneri (violin)
2001 Meditations for Piano Tzadik Solo piano
2002 The Double Idea Boxholder Solo piano
2003 The Mahout Slam Trio, with George Haslam (baritone sax, tarogato), Paul Hession (drums)
2002 Rivers in Time FMR Most tracks duo, with Frode Gjerstad (sax, clarinet); some tracks solo piano; one track Gjerstad solo
2003 Acts of Love Mutable Music Trio, with Lol Coxhill (soprano sax), Paul Hession (drums)
2007 One More Time Silta Duo, with Giorgio Dini (bass)
2007 Live at Tortona Mutable Music Duo, with Stefano Pastor (violin); in concert
2008 Luminescence Tzadik Most tracks trio, with Greg Cohen (bass), Kenny Wollesen (drums); one track quartet, with John Zorn (alto sax) added


  1. ^ Obituary by Christoph Wagner (German)
  2. ^ Obituary in Wire
  3. ^ a b c d Kelsey, Chris (December 2004) Chris Kelsey Borah Bergman: His Fatha's Son. JazzTimes.
  4. ^ Borah Bergman: Meditations for Piano
  5. ^ a b Kelsey, Chris Artist Biography. AllMusic. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Borah Bergman: You Must Judge a Man by the Work of His Hands (November 4, 2005) All About Jazz.
  7. ^ a b Polillo, Arrigo. In A New Frontier [CD liner notes]. Soul Note.
  8. ^ Cook, Richard & Morton, Brian (2008) The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.), p. 116. Penguin.