Jake Hertzog's Chromatosphere
(That's Out Records, 2008) presents the brilliant young guitar picker at his best in a talented combo of New York sidemen.
At 22, Hertzog is just beginning his career, and the releasehis firstis clearly intended to draw attention and establish his name, with strong compositional statements and clever covers of classic tunes.
Hertzog leans towards modern harmonies. It's not clear if he can play a dominant chord without something getting diminished or augmented, but he uses his chords well.
Backed by bassist Harvie S, drummer Victor Jones and pianist Michael Wolff, Hertzog weaves an often-compelling, enjoyable modern jazz sound. He eschews obvious stylistic references, although there's some Mike Stern and John Scofield in there; his use of off-kilter and angular runs on his version of "Almost Like Being in Love" recalls the late Danny Gatton.
It's one of three covers on the release, which also includes "In Your Own Sweet Way." That tune has Hertzog exploring close harmonies as Harvie S. combines steady walking lines with some delightful reworking of the harmony. The combination is powerful enough that the original melody and starting progressions are nearly forgotten.
Hertzog also covers "Falling in Love with Love," using a more standard, solo fingerstyle approach. He reworks the chords and lines with crystalline tones on his Artinger guitar through two choruses.
But it's Hertzog's own compositions which will draw him fans; compositions that range from a pair of sweet ballads"Oberon" and the fine "Melody for a Dreamer"to compositions immersed in creative dissonance, played at break-neck speed. The opening track, "California Hills," opens like a prog rocker from perhaps Eric Johnson, but Hertzog moves the composition forward into fusion à la Al Di Meola.
For the faint of heart, Hertzog's "Bonding," "Monkey Stuff" and "Nectarine" may present the most challenging listens. "Bonding" is built on a dissonant seven-chord motif that really allows him to delve into an original sound.
"Monkey Stuff" is highlighted by an excellent bass solo, while Hertzog's chromatic runs on "Nectarine" help connect angular motifs and runs.
Hertzog's Chromatosphere isn't free jazz, but he freely explores uncommon harmonies with verve and intelligence. At times, his solos seem to have little room for growth, but overall, he handles his compositions well. He's already being hailed as the next big thing for jazz guitarhe received the grand prize in the jazz guitar competition at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival. His compositions here show a young and gifted writer finding his voice, but not fully establishing it. That's likely to change in his next efforts.