Washington, DC-based guitarist Steve Herberman comes into your ear-space with an authority and clarity on Action: Reaction that immediately grabs your attention. However there's more to this recording than just fretboard fireworks; his trio with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber delivers a three-musician communiqué of solid jazz.
Herberman is reminiscent of straight-ahead greats Jim Hall and Joe Pass, with a lyrical and expressive touch. But he stamps out his own identity with a seven-string guitar (the extra string extending the bass range) and playing marked by clever fingerpicking, deep phrasing, and an ability to fill in the spaces between thick chords and single notes.
Though his ensemble is pared down from his 2002 quartet release Thought Lines, the music now feels more open, due in part to the original compositions and inspired contributions from his trio-mates, both of whom provide good interaction and exceptional solos. The selections cover hard bop cookers ("Cos' Groove ), blues simpatico ("Shoutin' Down ), and persuasive Latin jazz ("Negev Journey )which is where Herberman's picking is at its finest.
There's not a weak piece in the set; many warrant multiple spins, including the Midwestern gaucho-ism of "Snap! , where the trio turns up the heat. They close with the blues groove "Sphericity," which completely satisfies. Whether you're a guitar aficionado or just appreciate fine modern straight-ahead jazz, Action: Reaction is worth checking out.