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The letter "B" has played a major role in Frank Herzberg's life. The Berlin-born bassist, who spent time honing his craft at Berklee, relocated to Brazil in 1997 and has been busy performing and recording music there ever since. While Herzberg's career choices probably have nothing to do with adding alliterative qualities to his biography, they have everything to do with his efforts to broaden and sharpen his mind and music.
Herzberg and his trio work in a variety of settings here and with great sensitivity and creativity make Handmade into a jazz album born in Brazil, rather than a "Brazilian jazz" album. Though they aren't afraid to bounce along with baião ("A Xepa"), overt Brazilian influences are kept to a minimum though rhythm almost always rules the roost. "Don't Talk Crazy" begins with some sturm und drang arco work and is built around a groove in five, with some devilish displacement thrown into the mix. Zé Eduardo Nazário's buoyant drumming underscores the follow-up, "A Xepa," while the trio tightens and loosens the rhythmic reins over the course of "Mil Saudades." Odd meters abound again on "Lorca," which has a pronounced Spanish-tinge to it and Herzberg's bass sets things in motion on "Too Much Charlie," which moves from funk to swing and beyond, and features some stellar Rhodes work from Alexandre Zamith.
The last four tracks on the album make up "Twelve Bars Down The Road I Met You," a suite that deals with the blues in a variety of permutations. Of the three feature numbers, where each member of the band is given a solo spot, "The Drums" is the least fully formed with Nazário delivering an aggressive, unaccompanied drum solo and heavy beats beneath a 12-tone row-based section of blues music. "The Bass" is a short song built around Herzberg's solo lines, but "The Piano" leaves the strongest impression. This ballad in three gives pause to admire Zamith's ability to wed the blues with romantic and impressionistic ideals, while Herzberg and Nazario provide sensitive support below. The final movementdubbed "The Trio"ends things on a swinging note, as all three men predictably come together as a single, united musical entity.
While Herzberg's earlier work as a violin maker may have something to do with this album's title, it is more than likely that it also has something to do with how he carefully crafts and molds his musical thought patterns and ideas into one-of-a-kind compositions. Handmade wares are almost always more unique and of better quality, and this is no exception.
Track Listing: Don't Talk Crazy; A Xepa; Mil Saudades; Lorca; Too Much,
Charlie; The Drums; The Bass; The Piano; The Trio.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.