After arriving in New York City in 2001 and woodshedding as a notable sideman, composer and more recently, producer, a jazz keyboard player is ready to put his best foot forward. Chicago-born Sam Barsh is a name that's only come up in conversations about the current jazz scene in the last few years, but this bright young musician is quickly making an impression on those who have heard him and played with him. The list of musicians he's worked with is diverse and pretty impressive. The Brand New Heavies, Boyz II Men, Cassandra Wilson, and Robin Eubanks, to name a few.
Barsh was the keyboard player for uber-master bassist Avishai Cohen's tight little trio from 2003 to 2006 and played a pivotal role in the trio's thrilling live As Is...Live At The Blue Note CD which came out last year.
Now signed to Cohen's Razdaz Recordz label, Barsh assembled his own quartet and laid to tape his own brand of music, peforming strictly his originals. Backed by Tim Collins on vibes, Ari Folman-Cohen on bass and Jaimeo Brown on drums, this collection of highly experienced musicians provide the kind of energy and cohesiveness you can only get from your working group.
The resulting I Forgot What You Taught Me, released last month, marks Barsh's studio debut as a leader, and the calling card for his signature sound. It's what Barsh likes to call "ambient jam." Clearly influenced with the past acts he's worked with, Barsh's product is a mesh of R&B and jazz. To be sure, that's a mix that's been done thousands of times before, but Barsh does it more satisfying than most.
His success comes from the great rapport with his band, with plays with a genuine cooperative spirit with no show offs on board. Barsh's own production keeps the overdubs under control and doesn't go for much of the trendy stuff. That sounds like a good strategy to me to avoid quick obsolescence. Nope, it's mostly just him and his band sweating out succinct jams.