Its 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.
May 11, 2020
released September 4, 2020
Borah Bergman, piano
Perry Robinson, clarinet
Steve Swell, trombone
Ray Sage, drums
Recorded by Kathrin Miller at Yoshiaki Masuo Studio, NYC Recorded August 16, 2007
Mixed by Jim Clouse, Park West Studios, Brooklyn, NY on May 8, 2020
Produced by Chad Fowler, Mahkala Records
All music registered with Steve Swell Music (BMI)
Many thanks to Borah’s sister Erma and his niece, Sue Kranz