A Sunday kind of jazz

Pianist Jeremy Berlin and guitarist Eric T. Johnson pack the community program room at the West Tisbury library.

Eric Johnson on guitar and Jeremy Berlin on piano perform to a captive audience at the West Tisbury library. – Photo by Larisa Stinga

Last Sunday at the West Tisbury library, pianist Jeremy Berlin and guitarist Eric T. Johnson performed a selection of jazz standards, originals, and lesser-known numbers to a packed crowd in the library’s community program room. The duo, who play weekly on Tuesday evenings at Offshore Ale Co., formed 15 years ago, and have developed a highly interactive style inspired by, among others, the 1960s duo recordings of Bill Evans and Jim Hall.

Mr. Berlin explained that the combination of their instruments, piano and guitar, is not common, because they produce a similar midrange tone that takes up the same (musical) space. Given their closeness, they can be hard to distinguish, and musicians have to be conscious of staying out of each other’s way. But when done right, as in the case of Mr. Berlin and Mr. Johnson’s set, the combination can produce really beautiful music.

The captive audience sat with smiling eyes and swayed to the rhythms of the duo’s renditions of “Falling Angel” from Bill Evans and Jim Hall’s Intermodulation album, Steve Swallow’s “Falling Grace,” the popular country song “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Love, Gloom, Cash, Love” by jazz pianist Herbie Nichols, and Charlie Parker’s “Barbados,” among others. One attendee, Katrina Nevin, listened while drawing a sketch of flowers inspired by the music, with the title “Free jazz in winter.”

Jeremy Berlin and Eric T. Johnson perform every Tuesday night at 6:30 pm at Offshore Ale Co. in Oak Bluffs. The West Tisbury library offers ongoing events for the community, including music, art, crafts, and and workshops. Visit westtisburylibrary.org for more information.