This is, by coincidence, the fourth jazz guitar album in a row that I've reviewed, and it's the best of the bunch. Steve Herberman is a Washington, DC-based musician who previously released Thought Lines (Reach Music, 2001). Instead of a strategic mix of originals and standards, Herberman provides all-new compositions for Action: Reaction.
Herberman uses a seven-string guitar, which is relatively underutilized. A few months ago, I reviewed a release from Fred Fried who made the switch after studying under George Van Eps, a master of the seven-string guitar. Fried's reasoning was that the use of the added string allowed him to play the guitar in a more pianistic style. Like Fried, Herberman was influenced by Van Eps, but also by Joe Pass, and one can hear that in the guitarist's fingerstyle technique. Herberman has been playing seven-string over the past fifteen years and reports that the added string allows him to play chords independently below the melody line.
The nine compositions are all attractive tunes that enable Herberman and his trio to show their respective skills. They range from ballads like "Nearly Time" to the bopping "Cos' Groove." New York scene regulars bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber provide just the right interaction and sensitivity. Gress takes a number of solo opportunities on "Negev Journey" and "Halcyon Air" and begins "Nearly Time" with a bass statement. Ferber trades with the group on "Shoutin' Down" and solos on "Worry Not" and the appropriately named "Snap!"
Throughout this album, Steve Herberman checks positively on all of the benchmarks of a mainstream jazz guitarist: lyricism, chops and creativity.