Sometimes the power of a back story can eclipse the music it supports. For Israeli-born pianist Yaron Herman it's a close call, but A Time for Everything is such a refreshing and multifaceted album that a little background is necessary.
Herman, still in his mid-twenties, began playing piano at sixteen, a shift in focus resulting from an unexpected basketball accident that put an end to his sporting aspirations. The sports world's loss became the music world's gain when, after only two years of an unorthodox multi-disciplinary teaching method, Herman left to study at the Berklee College of Music. Dissatisfied, Herman left after two months, with a return trip stop-over in Paris turning into an extended stay as Herman quickly established himself as the up-and-coming pianist on the Parisian jazz scene.
A Time for Everything is Herman's third release as a leader and his first in a trio setting, but he already possesses not just a mature voice, but one that marries a firm grasp of the tradition (his effortlessly swinging "Stompin," with its touch of stride, and the equally swinging blues, "Monkey in Paradise") with a youthful mindset that will appeal to both traditionalists and those with a more modernistic bent. Any album with a song list ranging from Scriabine to Sting, Leonard Cohen to Björk, and the Great American Songbook toyes, you read that rightBritney Spears, is an album that is, at the very least, worth some attention.
That Hermanalongside bassist Matt Brewer and ubiquitous drummer Gerald Cleavercan find merit in Spears' simple pop confection ("Toxic") only means that he hears potential in just about anything. But unlike other bands that deconstruct popular contemporary songs, there's no sign of shtick or artifice to be found. "Message in a Bottle" begins with the sound of someone searching through a radio dial and ultimately finding a fiery intro that only gradually reveals the familiar arpeggios that define this staple from The Police. Cleaver grooves more definitively than The Police's Stewart Copeland ever did, while Herman marries reverence with liberal reharmonization.
Herman is undeniably informed by many of the usual suspects, ranging from Jarrett to Mehldau. But his ability to run the gamut from assertive and edgy playing on Björk's "Army of Me," to European neoclassicism on the fiery rubato original, "MMM," spare, dark-hued elegance on "Nishima" and an understated solo look at Leonard Cohen's enduring "Hallelujah"leading to a sublime coda where Herman's playing is enhanced by his trio's subtle colorationsdemonstrates a player whose distinctive voice is already well-formed.
Occasional sound designs by Jean Pierre Taïeb broaden the textural scope without intruding on the trio's clear simpatico. From a dramatic yet poignant take on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" to "Layla Layla," which references Herman's cultural roots, A Time for Everything is a success from start to finish. Reinforcing Herman's reputation, and deserving to further raise the profile of this rapidly emerging and remarkable talent, everything is, indeed, possible.
Army of Me; Stompin; Layla Layla; Interlude; Toxic; Neshima; Paluszki; Prelude No. 2 in B Flat Major, Opus 35; Message in a Bottle; MMM, Monkey Paradise; In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; El Toro; Hallelujah.
Yaron Herman: piano; Matt Brewer: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Jean Pierre Ta
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