How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Thought Lines is a perfect title for this leader debut from Maryland-based guitarist Steve Herberman, since his guitar lines seem to flow as naturally as thought. This CD was a welcome companion on my recent road trip after a winter storm, perfectly suiting that contemplative, long-drive mood, with enough spark and swing to keep me chugging along. There's a gentleness to Herberman's playing that matched the snow-covered forests I was passing, but there's also plenty of groove in there too. His decision not to use a pick warms his sound and makes it more organic, while his use of the extra bass string expands and deepens his tone.
Herberman's solos are terrific: uncluttered and meaningful, they command attention - especially "I Wish I KNew" and his own "Scurryin'." This leader is generous with the spotlight, and his bandmates supply some wonderful moments, like Bruce Swain's satiny tenor solos and Dominic Smith's hand-drumming on the playful "Nobody Else But Me." Charlie Christian's "A Smooth One" is the ultimate truth in packaging, the quartet swings like mad on "Jeannine" and "Scurryin'," and there's a splendid version of "Laura" with just bass and guitar.
Thought Lines offers a varied mix of mood and approach, all tasteful and direct, showcasing Herberman's compositional gifts on four tracks. For me, one sure sign of writing talent is when I can't get a new melody out of my head. Weeks after hearing it, the intriguing title track is still in there, and I expect this CD will also remain in my player for a long time.
Track Listing: I Wish I Knew, Thought Lines, Nobody Else but Me, A Smooth One, Criss
Cross, Laura, Scurryin', Scooter's Blues, Jeannine, Extended Cruise,
Personnel: Steve Herberman (guitar, composer), Bruce Swaim (tenor sax), Victor
Dvoskin (bass), Dominic Smith (drums)
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.