CD review: Yaron Herman

Alter Ego
(ACT 9530-2)

I’ve reviewed two Yaron Herman albums previously, both of them trio discs, and enjoyed both. But this one really leaps from the speakers with an increased confidence and passion, so maybe Herman’s alter ego is his livelier side.

It’s certainly his more expansive side with the band increased to a quartet. The saxophonist is either Emile Parisien on tenor and soprano or Logan Richardson on alto, while Stephane Kerecki is on bass and Ziv Ravitz is the drummer.

The intro to the opener, Atlas And Axis, may be a delicately phrased solo piano one, but soon Parisien’s tenor is expressing the head, and bass and drums are roaming behind to settle into a slow and steady build as the band grows more intense with each passing bar. The solos are short and thrown back and forth between piano and saxophone, and both have rich harmonic material in which to luxuriate.

Herman says this album is an attempt to get back to the foundations of his music and back into what is in his heart. And there is a lot of heart in this music. It brings a passion to the often exacting, almost mathematical nature of some of the constructions.

Some tracks, like Mojo and Homemade, have a fervent lyricism allied to great drive that reminds me of another musician who started out in Israel, Avishai Cohen, and that signifies a great thumbs up in this jazz kitchen. Your Eyes might be a more formal and quieter composition but it has as similar melodic delight in its yearning theme.

La Confusion Sexuelle Des Papillons is a prime example of how Herman blends both that melodic heart and the exacting head in a most successful synthesis. With the bass pulse strong, Ravitz throwing all kinds of different rhythmic accents the cymbals’ way, and Herman rising to a sing-along climax in his solo, there is great momentum here, and an absolutely exquisite reining in by Parisien on soprano leading to a perfect, quiet last few piano notes.

Most of the tunes are originals but when Herman chooses covers they are beauties. Like the pair of pieces by the Czech classical composers Gideon Klein, who, Wikipedia informs me, organised the cultural life in the Theresieenstadt concentration camp, and Hatikva, by the Moldavian who went on to compose the Israeli national anthem, Samuel Cohen.

Many of the tracks are quite short and richly varied in mood, so, as I have written of a previous Herman CD, the time seems to fly – that’s what happens when both band and listener are enjoying themselves.

A fine album indeed, and a great leap forward by an increasingly important pianist and composer.

Categories: CD review

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