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Jake Hertzog: Evolution

Ian Patterson By

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Guitarist Jake Hertzog's previous recordings as leader, Chromatosphere (That's Out, 2009) and Patterns (Buckyball, 2010) created a stir, with reviewers comparing his talent to just about every jazz and rock guitarist who's ever been described as a legend, from the 1940s on. What this hints rather broadly at is Hertzog's cross-generational approach and stylistic variation which define his music, though he's essentially a modernist. The effusion of comparisons has, perhaps, heaped heavy expectations on both the guitarist—still only 25—and listener, so an open mind is an asset when approaching his music.

The title of Hertzog's third album is revealing, as he eschews the jazz standards which peppered previous releases. Hertzog no longer needs to display his jazz credentials overtly—they're there in abundance in the refined intricacies, chord progressions and developed harmonics of his playing. Instead, he offers nine originals, and one delightful cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia." Hertzog's duality is laid bare from the outset on "Don't Bother." A ruminative intro soon roughens around the edges, as Hertzog takes a carefully weighted solo before careering headlong into riff-centric heavy rock territory with drummer Victor Jones providing plenty of muscle, before bassist Harvie S' brief arco passage returns the trio to its gentle head.

This is the trio's third outing, and there's an infectious, in-the-pocket groove throughout, combined with intuitive interplay. Even with such an experienced, nuanced rhythm section, Hertzog's layered acoustic guitar brings additional rhythmic drive to "Firefly," a lovely tune which blurs the lines between jazz and rock to great effect. Hertzog clearly has the knack of producing simple but pleasing melodies, such as on fast-paced "Solar Flare," which oozes much melodic charm and driving energy. And on the ballsy, big-beat "Timeline" —where Hertzog shreds with a melting intensity, melody is always central to a U2-inspired dance anthem.

Hertzog reveals great sensitivity in his gorgeous treatment of "Streets of Philadelphia," with a lightness of touch that conveys considerable emotional weight. This could almost have been extracted from guitarist Bill Frisell's mine, though Hertzog's acoustic guitar solo exudes a snappy, pop-like lyricism which personalizes the interpretation. The short "Sleep Close," a somewhat hypnotic slower number, highlights the trio's chemistry in its delicate exchanges.

Alternating between crushing riffs and elegant jazz improvisations on "Gloria," Hertzog succeeds in seducing on both a visceral and cerebral level, only to skew perceptions with a cameo of quasi-psychedelic dissonance. "Forms" follows a slightly similar blueprint, though distinguished by Harvie S' most pronounced solo of the set. A punkish intensity raises steam on "Renegade," with Hertzog exploring a nicely angular, blues vein in the tail. The gently loping rhythm of "Common Ground"—punctuated by a tasteful Hertzog solo— is another seductively simple melody, and a pleasing slice of Americana.

Hertzog is an excellent technician, though memorable solos are few; perhaps the real evolution lies in his increasingly mature compositional style and emotionally weighted playing, which favors overall sonic impact over individual grandstanding. This is a fine recording which will go some way towards building—over time—his very own legend.

Track Listing: Don't Bother; Firefly; Timeline; Streets of Philadelphia; Gloria; Forms; Renegade; Common Ground; Sleep Close; Solar Flare.

Personnel: Jake Hertzog: guitar; Victor Jones: drums; Harvie S: acoustic and electric basses, piano, Fender Rhodes.

Title: Evolution | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Buckyball Records

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