Nicole Herzog Septet featuring Adrian Mears: Time Will Tell (2009)
Slight and striking, the coquette-voiced German Nicole Herzog has the stones to lead her own septet on Time Will Tell. Rather than opting for a trio or quartet format as her ride, Herzog employs the "little big band" concept developed and perfected by Miles Davis with his famous 1949 nonet and 1958 sextet.
The Herzog septet has a sound big enough to fill a room, while still remaining small enough to be intimate. Herzog has an interesting high voice that, while not thin, has a perfect mid-range, sounding like an audible laser. Her voice sounds less sculpted and more digitally cut by an electron beam. Her articulation is cut from the same stuff.
The opening songs, Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba" and the Gershwins' "The Man I Love," set the momentum of the recording: swinging and brassy. Trombonist and able arranger Adrian Mears assembles and sands the edges of these pieces expertly, so that they swing with maximum momentum. On "The Man I Love," Herzog chooses her mid-range to convey a sexy wink to the subject. Till Grünewald adds a taste-appropriate tenor saxophone solo to the mix, helping wrap up the Tin Pan Alley warhorse.
Mears provides Herzog three original compositions, including "The Best I Can," which highlights the youthful nature of the singer's voice. The title cut and "While My Baby Sleeps" do much the same, but Herzog shows how to affect pure sweetness and grace, conveying innocent and hopeful love in these pieces.
The breadth of Herzog's vocal talent is well illustrated in the comparison of the innocent sweetness of "Time Will Tell" with the frank physicality of "Afro Blue," the latter sporting a Mears trombone solo that fits well with Herzog's approach. The second inclusion of a Jobim tune, "Agua De Beber," is propelled by the electric piano and a slick Latin horn chart; and it is on this tune that her singing is at its sexiest.
Herzog's pronunciation is perfect here and throughout. It is simply splendid. Herzog closes the disc with a very upbeat treatment of the standard "If I Were a Bell." Perfect articulation and a swinging tempo make this a fine piece to conclude with. Time Will Tell if Herzog finally gets the broader recognition she certainly deserves.
Track Listing: One Note Samba; The Man I Love; The Best I Can; Afro Blue; Time Will Tell; While My Baby Sleeps; Agua De Beber; If I Were a Bell.
Personnel: Nicole Herzog: vocals; Adrian Mears: trombone; Patrick Bianco: saxophone, alto saxophone; Till Grünewald: saxophone, tenor saxophone; Johannes Walter: trumpet, flugelhorn; Philip Henzi; piano, Fender Rhodes piano; Bjorn Baumgartne: double bass; Dominik Deuber: drums.