The Squid's Ear Magazine

Bergman / Robinson / Swell / Sage: Quartets/Trios/Duos (Mahakala Music)

Sheltered in place during the pandemic, trombonist Steve Swell occupied his time listening to recordings forgotten or never released, seizing on these excellent studio session from 2007 organized with drummer Ray Sage, performed in duo, trio and quartet configurations with clarinetist Perry Robinson and pianist Borah Bergman, demonstrating that in bad circumstance, good can appear.

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product information:

UPC: 195269029456

Label: Mahakala Music
Catalog ID: MAHA-006
Squidco Product Code: 32909

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2020
Country: USA
Packaging: Digipack
Recorded at Yoshiaki Masuo Studio, in New York, New York, on August 16th, 2007, Katherine Miller.


Borah Bergman-piano

Perry Robinson-clarinet

Steve Swell-trombone

Ray Sage-drums

Click an artist name above to see in-stock items for that artist.

Sample The Album:

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"It's May 2020 and I'm sheltered in place, alone in Manhattan, washing my hands, food shopping every two to four days. No gigs. Plenty of time for listening. Which is what I was doing, going through some old recordings never released or forgotten when all this Covid stuff began. That is how I discovered this session from 2007 that drummer Ray Sage had put together. As I began to listen to these tracks I gave a lot of thought to the music and uncompromising determination of Borah and Perry both of whom I had known for a number of years. It's always amazing to me how when I listen to a musician who has passed, especially one I've known and worked with, how they shine more brightly now from this distance as opposed to when we played together. It is a different kind of listening. A different feeling. I guess it's a matter of listening to them from the outside of myself now instead of remembering what it was like playing with them, from the inside. When I was playing with them and interacting to form these improvisations my focus was on the ebb and flow of those interactions. At that moment we are treasure hunters, searching for that priceless nugget. Listening back now, from this distance and isolation, everything we played seems to shine brighter and clearer now. Away from the searching, becoming a presence that is very much alive and a confirmation that this kind of work is truly special.

Borah and Perry both have special places in the pantheon of improvised music and I was ever so fortunate to get to play with them. They brought a devotion, commitment and originality to their approaches to improvisation and the techniques they used on their chosen instruments. I first heard Borah in a live concert when I was 19 years old. He was known for his interest in using his left hand as an equal to his right. Something he could talk about extensively and that he demonstrates on his many recordings and concerts. Perry was a magician and a musical magician, always happy to play. An independent voice traveling through life wherever it took him physically and musically. His personal history is a unique one with having a successful songwriting father who was a part of Woody Guthrie's inner circle whom Perry knew as a child.

Now that both are gone, I am happy to have this document see the light of day that Ray was responsible for putting together. I hope it pleases and enriches you as much as it does me in this very strange time and in a free, bright future time.

Many thanks to Borah, Perry and Ray for their uncompromising focus and originality. To Chad Fowler for releasing this to a wider audience and to Jim Clouse for his valuable expertise."-Steve Swell

Artist Biographies

"Borah Bergman (December 13, 1926 October 18, 2012) was an American free jazz pianist.

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".

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"."

-Wikipedia (

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"Perry Morris Robinson (born September 17, 1938) is an American jazz clarinetist and composer. He is the son of the composer Earl Robinson.

Robinson was born and grew up in New York City. He attended the Lenox School of Jazz in Massachusetts in the summer of 1959. Robinson served in a U.S. military band in the early 1960s. His first record, Funk Dumpling (with Kenny Barron, Henry Grimes, and Paul Motian) was recorded in 1962. He also appeared with Grimes on The Call in 1965, on the ESP-Disk label (ESP 1026). Although the album is credited to "Henry Grimes Trio" the album liner notes, written by ESP-Disk label head Bernard Stollman, state: "[Grimes] chose Perry Robinson, a virtuoso who merits far wider recognition, to pair with, and this recording reflects both of their contributions, in equal measure. A more accurate title for the album would be Henry Grimes/Perry Robinson." Two of the album's six songs are credited to Robinson, including the title track. An LP copy of this album can be seen hanging on the wall of the protagonist's apartment in the 2006 film Half Nelson.

Since 1973 he has worked with Jeanne Lee and Gunter Hampel's Galaxie Dream Band. He contributed to Dave Brubeck' s Two Generations of Brubeck and played with Burton Greene' s Dutch klezmer band Klezmokum. He was the featured clarinetist on Archie Shepp's LP Mama Too Tight on Impulse Records. He has led his own groups in performances and on record, with albums on the Chiaroscuro, WestWind, and Timescraper labels. More recently, he worked with William Parker and Walter Perkins on Bob's Pink Cadillac and several discs on the CIMP label.

From 1975 until 1977, Robinson was member of a band called Clarinet Contrast, featuring German clarinet players Theo Jörgensmann and Bernd Konrad. He has recorded with Lou Grassi as a member of his PoBand since the late Nineties, and with Lou Grassi, Wayne Lopes and Luke Faust in The Jug Jam, an improvisational jug band. He plays in a free jazz and world music trio along with tabla player Badal Roy and bassist Ed Schuller, with whom he recorded the CD Raga Roni. He has played with Darius Brubeck and Muruga Booker in the MBR jazz trio. Robinson also played an integral part in the formation of Cosmic Legends, an improvisational music/performance group led by composer/pianist Sylvie Degiez which included musicians Rashied Ali, Wayne Lopes, Hayes Greenfield, and Michael Hashim. In 2005 he was featured on his cousin Jeffrey Lewis' album City and Eastern Songs on Rough Trade Records, produced by Kramer. His most recent release was OrthoFunkOlogy in 2008 with the band Free Funk, also featuring Muruga Booker, Badal Roy, and Shakti Ma Booker.

His autobiography, Perry Robinson: The Traveler (co-authored by Florence F. Wetzel), was published in 2002."

-Wikipedia (

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"Born in Newark, NJ, Steve Swell has been an active member of the NYC music community since 1975. He has toured and recorded with many artists from mainstreamers such as Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich to so called outsiders as Anthony Braxton, Bill Dixon, Cecil Taylor and William Parker. He has over 40 CDs as a leader or co-leader and is a featured artists on more than 100 other releases. He runs workshops around the world and is a teaching artist in the NYC public school system focusing on special needs children.

Swell has worked on music transcriptions of the Bosavi tribe of New Guinea for MacArthur fellow, Steve Feld in 2000. His CD, "Suite For Players, Listeners and Other Dreamers" (CIMP) ranked number 2 in the 2004 Cadence Readers Poll. He has also received grants from USArtists International in 2006, MCAF (LMCC) awards in 2008 and 2013 and has been commissioned twice on the Interpretations Series at Merkin Hall in 2006 and at Roulette in 2012.

Steve was nominated for Trombonist of the Year 2008 & 2011 by the Jazz Journalists Association, was selected Trombonist of the Year 2008-2010 , 2012 and 2014-2015 by the magazine El Intruso of Argentina and received the 2008 Jubilation Foundation Fellowship Award of the Tides Foundation. Steve has also been selected by the Downbeat Critics Poll in the Trombone category each year from 2010-2016.

Steve is presently a teaching artist through the American Composers Orchestra, Healing Arts Initiative , Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center (Bronx), the Jazz Foundation of America and Leman Manhattan Preparatory School.

Steve was also awarded the 2014 Creative Curricula grant (LMCC) for the project: "Metamorphoses: Modern Mythology in Sound and Words" which was taught in a month long residency at Baruch College Campus High School in Manhattan."

-Steve Swell Website (

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Ray Sage is a free jazz drummer and improviser, known for the groups Confusion Bleue, Mambo Mantis, Reverb Motherfuckers, The Nabobs, W.O.O., and W.O.O. Revelator.

-Discogs (

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Track Listing:

1. Bprs1 10:03

2. Bpr1 6:04

3. Bsr1 5:24

4. Bpr2 6:01

5. Bsr2 5:37

6. Pr 5:12

7. Bsr3 3:33

8. Bprs2 8:11

9. Sr 4:47

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Quartet Recordings
Duo Recordings
Trio Recordings
Quartet Recordings
New in Improvised Music
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