Johan Berke

Upstairs Five
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Swedish composer Johan Berke debuts as a recording guitarist on this largely introspective yet energetic disc. His playing moves from dark and moody electric textures reminiscent of those heard on early ECM recordings to sparse acoustic structures to delightfully distorted and dissonant passages that evoke ’70s Robert Fripp. Berke is accompanied by a traditional lineup of drums, acoustic bass, and two saxophones, though a lap-steel player adds unusual colorings on two pieces. The music ranges from free-jazzish explorations to sophisticated arrangements that reveal Berke’s formal compositional skills. This is intelligent and sensitive music that will undoubtedly deep-six any hopes Berke might have of becoming the next smooth jazz sensation—and that’s a good thing. (Gason Jazz) —Barry Cleveland