Phil Berman & the Flying Leap
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Phil Berman & the Flying Leap

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Folk Cabaret




"The Battle of Bunker Hill"

By Dan Lehner

If judged solely on its temperament, Phil Berman's "The Battle of Bunker Hill" is a warm, inviting and friendly record. However, an important artistic distinction, one that separates it from its potential peers, is that its an adventurous one. It takes risks. It doesn't easily fall into categorization. It's no mean feat to explore the crossroads of Joni Mitchell, Steven Sondheim and Benny Goodman and keep all the joy but not lose any of the flavor. The Beatles once declared themselves "just a pop band" and most people don't appreciate how that really wasn't a hand-waving statement. Pop, in all of its modalities, is not as easily blended together as one might think. It's a careful stew to concoct. Berman, alongside his orchestrator Brendan Burns, have made this delightful menagerie work, for both its loveliness and for its sincerity.

The core and ultimate foundation of the record is Berman's voice and his guitar. This is mostly where the ever-persistent influence of musical theater secretly pays off. With all due respect to the idiosyncratic, "creative sense of intonation" types, Berman's mature vocal expertise is extremely refreshing and reliable. It's also quite bold when it needs to be and in unexpected ways; "Losing You Again" has Berman intoning in very low, deep tones, something that isn't often found in a culture that praises high notes above anything else. No matter what else happens in the record (and it's *a lot*, you can be assured) his guitar keeps it centered. It allows a sprawling record like this one to feel tied together.

Where it spraws, it sprawls well. Clarinet-led early jazz and rag makes itself a core part of songs like "More for Me" and "The Last Six Months", and Berman and Burns have found a fascinating pop alchemy in how riverboat music can make the former song sound self-deprecatingly happy, but then make the latter sound resiliently forlorn. It makes itself front and center on the rollicking, jungle-swing of "Making a Dime", but, never to fall into cliche, Berman adjusts what could have been a cheap, Chicago-esque "describe the local hipster ne'er-do-well" knockoff with colorful, Joycean lyrics that evoke Bob Dylan and Beck in equal measure. Rock n' roll also makes itself a part of the "Bunker Hill" family, with the slightly bent alt-rock of "Dream Big a Little", the full-blown Ted Leo/Ben Folds stylings of "Resolution" (complete with swinging early rock guitar straight out of Chet Atkins), or even just as a modernist effect on "Competition".

Lyrically, Berman's music gets personal but in a clever and effectively distant way. The titular refrain that appears every other bar of "And So Was I" is surrounded by seemingly unrelated pastoral and gastronomic imagery (some Gaelic-style song structure that is complimented by slow-reeling violins) until he connects the two at the very end, and still manages to play the true meaning close to the chest. Songs like the title track hint at internal struggle, but never lets itself run away with emotion. Berman's music is an inviting and colorful world that has meaning precisely where you seek it. - Feast of Music


Still working on that hot first release.



Phil Berman is a singer-songwriter in Cambridge, MA whose warm melodies and toothsome lyrics concoct a unique pop alchemy at the crossroads of Stephen Sondheim, Joni Mitchell, and Benny Goodman. His first record, The Battle of Bunker Hill, transmutes folk to big band with a wink, a nibble, and a quick turn of phrase.

With his honeyed, mercurial voice, Berman creates a musical menagerie of timeless tunes and lush orchestrations hewn from the heart.

Band Members