Confirms Herman as a definite contender in the piano trio arena.
Kevin Le Gendre 2009
The standard of improvisation reached by the bulk of today’s jazz musicians is so high that the new cyber age grail may well be composing. Melody is possibly the element of creative music that deserves wider recognition, and while there will always be a place for a great solo, a good song, no matter how simple, has the priceless premium of clear narrative.
Israeli-born and Paris-based pianist Herman, who has been quietly making waves for the last few years, gets this. Rina Ballé, the closing salvo on his fourth album as a leader in the company of premier American drums and bass team Gerald Cleaver and Matt Brewer, is a discreet jewel of a song. A deeply plaintive slow- to mid-tempo ballad, it ambles with enormous grace through a wounded minor key theme whose heavily inflected classical harmony is brought into sharper focus by a string quartet that favours low, sombre tonalities above higher sprightly ones.
On his previous set, 2007’s A Time For Everything, Herman also penned smart originals such as Paluszki, but there is possibly a greater degree of nuance in his writing throughout this new programme, which also boasts tasteful covers of Björk and Dizzy Gillespie. Melodically gifted as he is, Herman is no slouch as an improviser and a fleet, precise right hand unfurls a number of sparkling, at times Chick Corea-like statements in which the Spanish-Arabic flourish is strong.
Cleaver and Brewer have the requisite stealth and strength to ensure that the songs follow their classical and Eastern pathways with aplomb, yet despite the many moments of beauty there is a nagging sense that everybody could loosen up just a touch more and follow through on the conversational lines they suggest. Cleaver’s deftly orchestral tom tom patterns would revel in a more foreground position, and Brewer is suited to a greater counter-melodic role.
But for the most part this latest set confirms Herman as a definite contender in the already crowded piano trio arena, not least because he has a tune or two up his sleeve.