Steve Herberman may not be one of those names that instantly pops into your head when you think about the movers and shakers of Jazz Guitar, but it should be, and with any luck, soon will be. His most recent CD, Ideals features Herberman’s most exciting playing to date as he explores the art of trio playing alongside some serious improvising, composing and arranging skills. And if that’s not enough to make you want to check out this CD, maybe the fact that Herberman is joined on this date by the outstanding Tom Baldwin on Bass and the ubiquitous Mark Ferber on Drums will help seal the deal. A very lethal combination!The first thing I noticed upon listening to Ideals, is how comfortable Herberman sounds on his Guitar. His technique is quite impressive as he blazes across the fretboard with a nimbleness that would make Jimmy Bruno smile. But it’s not all speed for speed’s sake. Herberman is also an extremely melodic player and his lines, whether at a fast tempo or not, are rich in creative and harmonic intuitiveness. This becomes readily apparent from the first tune, Gershwin’s “This Is New”, to the last, Herberman’s own “Upbeat”.
On “Upbeat”, Herberman really takes this tune to town as he combines bouncy double stops, triadic ingenuity, intervallic jumps, bluesy pentatonics and even some Western swing which all culminate in a big rock n roll ending. Drummer extraordinaire, Mark Ferber gets to shine with a thumping solo and really brings the tune to a crashing climax. I would have to say that Herberman was really on the money when he titled this tune!
The Adair/Dennis tune “Will You Still Be Mine” also features Herberman in a dazzling fretboard workout that has him digging into his bag of Bop and beyond chops, pulling out snaky lines and chord solo shots that rival many of today’s top players. Bassist Tom Baldwin gets a workout on this tune as well, playing the idiosyncratic head in unison with Herberman while Ferber trades eights with Herberman towards the end of the tune.
At a less upbeat pace, the latin-esque “Soul Eyes” captures Herberman’s smooth, laid back feel as he works the changes with clean, articulate lines reminding me of Jimmy Raney, especially when he tosses in chords and melody without missing a beat. And the Gershwin tune “Soon” reinforces that thought as Herberman et al, really swing the tune “old-school”. Both Herberman and Baldwin get to shine in the solo department while Baldwin gets to show off his bowing skill on the intro and melody. An excellent tune with some really great playing all around.
And if you are looking for something a tad slower, well look no further. Herberman has chosen a few tunes that cater to the more sensitive side of each player. The Jobim tune “Someone To Light Up My Life” and Youman’s “I Want To Be Happy” work nicely in this context, but it is two of Herberman’s own compositions, “Let Go” and “Ideals” that grabbed my attention upon first listen.
“Let Go” features a haunting fingerstyle melody that would fit nicely on any Tim Burton soundtrack. The “spooky” harmony and melancholy vibe lends itself rather nicely to this particular song format. Baldwin contributes a melodic solo, reminding me of early Eberhard Weber, before Herberman explores some alluring and exotic note choices. Baldwin also provides an elegant solo on the title track as does Herberman, and throughout it all Ferber keeps the time flowing nicely while adding his own unique brand of intuitive play.
The rest of the tunes on the CD, Victor Young’s “Delilah”, and Herberman’s own “She’s For Me”, get the same attention that he, Baldwin and Ferber bring to each tune. There’s no denying that each player is as consummate a musician as you are ever likely to hear, benefiting not only the tunes played but also the listener. Which, at the end of the day, is all you can ask for both as an artist and music lover.
So if you are looking for new Jazz Guitar Players to admire or just want to hear something new, check out Steve Herberman and Ideals. It will make a fitting addition to your collection and will help the Herberman name become synonymous with Jazz Guitar. Enjoy!