Thursday, October 18, 2012

Get to Know: Yaron Herman

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. 
Product Details
Yaron Herman has a new CD out, "Alter Ego" (ACT 2012), his second on ACT and third on a major label, the other being on Sunnyside. Herman is another in a long line of young and highly talented Israeli jazz players. He was born in Tel Aviv in 1981, and started to learn piano relatively late, at sixteen.  Two years later, he already was accomplished enough to win the junior talent prize at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and to begin performing in Israel. At nineteen he left for Boston and the Berklee School, but instead of enrolling he moved onto Paris, where he remains today. His first recording was made in 2002 for the small Sketch Label. 
Product Details
It was in 2007 that he really hit his stride and established himself with his recording "A Time for Everything" (Laborie 2007), with Matt Brewer on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The CD was released to outstanding reviews in France; Herman and friends demonstrate an energetic and witty way with a mix of pop songs by Bjork and Brittany Spears, and add one more wonderful interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".  Herman also demonstrates a skill for composition with his own songs, as del as an ability to meld the disparate genres of pop, jazz, and classical music into a creative and exciting outing. 
Product Details
Herman moved quickly into the forefront of the European jazz scene at that point, and his next CD, "Muse" (Sunnyside 2009) was on a larger and well-established label and gained wider distribution, including his introduction to the U.S. The CD is an inventive, expressive and cohesive effort with Cleaver and Brewer again. Herman shows his versatility by opening with a classically based original, the title song "Muse", followed by a vigorous rendition of "Con Alma." The music is inventive, with a very spirited and emotional "Vertigo", more angular than most of his compositions, and also some wonderfully lyrical songs like "Perpetua" and his lovely solo on "Lu Yehi." The disc closes with another classically-colored song, "Rina Balle" on which there is a nice background provided by a string quartet.  The music is fun, it is stimulating, and though Herman has been compared to Jarrett, Bley and others, it is fully original. Inspiring music that captures the spirit of the modern piano trio but is not too far out of the mainstream. 
Product Details
Herman moves to another label for the next outing, "Follow the White Rabbit" (ACT 2011), with bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Tommy Crane. ACT has been building a reputation as the new ECM and features a stable of very interesting young players, including Bad Plus, Gwilym Simcock, and Carsten Dahl among many, many others.  The title is a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and Herman is inviting us down his rabbit hole into his colorful and dramatic musical world. This is a trip worth taking, with a rich melange of songs that move across all genres, blurring distinctions between them. Herman is adventurous, as he showed in previous outings and here he is no different. This is a joyful and innovative experience made up of 14 songs, most by Herman, but also including "Heart Shaped Box."  Originals like "Follow the White Rabbit" and "Aladin's Psychedelic Lamp" are whimsical, energetic jazz romps, while "The Mountain in G Minor" and "Ein Gedi" demonstrate a richness that brings in classical and middle eastern traditional touches. Herman's confidence is clearly growing as he moves with liquid hands through the music.  Great stuff and still within the sweet spot for most listener's, be they fans of standards trios or of true new modernists. 

"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.

No comments:

Post a Comment