2023 / Stan Berger
Review by Kathy Parsons
Ocean View is the fifth album from pianist/composer Stan Berger, a longtime studio musician, musical director and former keyboardist for Barry White. This is the fourth of Stan's five albums that I've reviewed, and new music from him is always a special treat! The ten original tracks on Ocean View would fall under the "smooth jazz" category, but while the music is relaxing with an easy groove, it goes far beyond "ear candy" status. In other words, this is some really good stuff! A lot of smooth jazz is wonderful background music that sets a mood, but give your ears and soul a treat and listen to this one at least once with full attention - I think you'll hear what I mean! A full ensemble that includes piano, flute, strings, bass, drums, percussion and more is all performed by Stan with the exception of the live guitar on "Easy Chair."
Stan Berger was born in North Dakota, but his family moved to California when he was seven. He started playing the accordion at seven and grew up listening to his father's classical music collection. Stan studied both classical music and jazz, and earned a Doctorate degree in Music Composition from Claremont Graduate University in 1994. He released his first album, Kool Shoes, in 2010.
Ocean View begins with "Blue Mood," a pensive and bittersweet piece with a gentle but compelling rhythm behind the piano, strings and bass - a great start! "Let's Dance" picks up the tempo a bit with a playful piano lead, a strong drum beat and smooth strings. I really like this one! "Easy Chair" is a perfect title for this wonderfully relaxing duet for piano and guitar backed by drums and strings. It's not a lullaby, but the easy-going groove and happy piano sound are hypnotic and allow cares to disappear for at least a few minutes. If anything, "Moonlight" is even more soothing with its drum and electric guitar rhythm behind the keyboard and piano leads and string washes. In keeping with the theme of the album, there is a sound in the background that suggests the ebb and flow of ocean waves shimmering in the "Moonlight." "Midnight Groove" is another favorite with a freely improvised piano, along with keyboards and a driving beat. This is truly "good time music" guaranteed to lift the spirits and make the body move - perfect for driving up or down the coast any time of day or night! From there, we go to "This Love Will Last Forever," a rapturous romantic slow dance, perhaps under the moon and stars and maybe on a deserted beach. A duet for flute and piano with bass, strings and drums, this one has a very big "ahhhhhhhh" factor! The title track has a wonderful tropical flavor and a relaxed, tranquil vibe - a welcome kind of mind massage! Flute and piano take turns in the lead and are also very hypnotic! "Sabrosa" has a Latin jazz style that puts Stan's piano front and center with an improvisation that never lets go - piano joy! "Spanish Rose" is rhythmic yet silky and expressive - smooth jazz at its best! The album closes with "Cruisin'," a lively piece that's full of fun and sure to get the toes tappin'! More, Stan Berger, more!
I really love Ocean View and hope it won't be so long between albums from Stan Berger! The album is available from Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes and streaming sites including YouTube and Spotify. Very highly recommended!
May 4, 2023