I listened to a fair amount of music while in the air during the last week, and one artist's new CD stood out for me. Plus he is somebody that people should know about, a great young talent really just coming into his own.
"Alter Ego" (ACT 2012) is Herman's latest, and the one I was listening closely to in the air. It is immediately evident that this is a different recording, although I am not sure it is completely showing an alter ego to what has come before. Rather it is an evolution in sound, as Herman is using more instruments to bring other voices into the mix. So on this recording he is joined by Stephane Kerecki on bass and Zvi Ravitz (who has his own new CD out) on drums, and then Emile Parisien on tenor and soprano saxes and Logan Richardson on alto. He wrote eleven of the thirteen songs, the exceptions a folk song and the Israeli national anthem "Hatikva." which is played with a passion and expressive set of improvisations that increase the beauty of its melody and message. "Atlas and Axis" opens the disc with a piano solo, but almost immediately Herman brings in all the other instruments to build his composition, increase the intensity of the music, and give full rein to his instincts to create a beautiful and rich sonic experience that we have not heard before in the trio setting. There is a great deal of passion throughout this recording as the players all get involved with these lyrical and often driving melodies. Ravitz is masterful in coloring the music while propelling it forward creating energy and intensity.
The music is different here, although there are many sections where the trio sound dominates. The horns, however, bring more strength to the music, so for example "Mojo" is far more intense with Kerecki's powerful bass, Ravitz's drum grooves, and the lively sounds of the saxes providing a middle eastern groove to the song. The song gets to the point where the chatter is intense, the joy explosive for both the players and the listener. "Mechanical Brothers" is a very modern and angular piece led by the two sax players, with a great deal of undertone from the rhythm players. "From Afar" a lovely and enrgetic piece that rests on the fluttering tones of the alto coupled with the piano while the second sax plays a lilting line over the top is a very free and modern piece. The CD has its share of quiet moments with expressive piano pieces like "Your Eyes" or those with a mellow sax line like "La Confusion Sexuelle Des Papillons" and "Madeliene" which are reminders of the beauty of Herman's piano technique and creative and passionate compositional skills. And the folk piece "Ukolebavka/Wiegenlied" is a quiet song with a strong melody line, and two nice solos from the bass and from the soprano sax, sounding here almost fluete-like. Herman plays throughout underneath with a moving and expressive secondary melody that makes this piece a flat out beauty.
I like this CD very much. It is very different than those that came before, much more of a creative modern jazz CD. It took a bit more time to get into it having been so used to Herman's trio CDs but that was a wonderful investment, as this is music that will grow on you, that opens Herman's creative impulses to new sounds and experiences, and hints at greater things to come. Do not come in expecting a trio CD with select sax parts -- this is an ensemble at play and often loosely structured. I would say this is not a CD for everyone and those who lean to the standards will find this to be a looser and less structured set than they might like. But for others this is one heck of a CD that Herman adds to his discography.