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Yaron Herman Trio: Muse

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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If music could exist outside of time—not as in rhythm, but as in the time-space continuum—then it might sound like the glassy, ice-hot pianism of Yaron Herman. How did he get to inhabit this spare soundscape in almost suspended animation? Perhaps it is because he is powered by the magic of an uninhibited soul—that and the happy accident of the finiteness of mathematics. Add the mysterious trickery of melding of the two, and the result is music that sways, mirage-like into the inner ear.

Muse may bring Keith Jarrett to mind, but would be only because Herman hums atonally as he propels himself with trembling, reckless abandon on the keyboard. And like all artists who appear to commune with the spiritual world—as they all should—Herman's renditions of his and other musicians' songs howl and cry, swing and frolic, skip and pirouette with a pulse and voice all their own.

"Con Alma," Dizzy Gillespie's insouciant bop classic, is rejuvenated with colorful, timbral elegance and a pulse that puts an unfettered sway in to the song. Björk's "Isobel" becomes a cry in the wind at the thunderous hands of Herman, drummer Gerald Cleaver, bassist Matt Brewer. Violins, viola and cello elevate the song as the subtly expressive, Parisian Quatuor Ebene string quartet add a touch of the fragile to a piece that becomes increasingly dark and Gothic.

The trio powers its way into "Lamidbar" the well-known Israeli folk song, and, thanks to Cleaver's marching rattle, and clipped, bright cymbal splashes, turns it into a kind of feverish forro. Herman appears to bend his melancholic notes while somehow maintaining the folksy feel throughout. "Perpetua" has that glacial imagery which is cracked and crashed into by the drums from time to time; it then swings, with a contrapuntal figure, into a complex modal sketch. Herman's hyper-tonal harmonic layering adds mystery to an already beguiling song.

Herman's songs are imbued with a primal force that coalesces on a frenetic aural canvas. "Muse" is a fine example; a song with an otherworldly melody that resounds with elastic harmonies. "Twins" is written and played almost as if it were constructed and performed against a cracked mirror. "Vertigo" is a soaring spiral of a piece that is exquisitely rendered by the trio, while "Rina Balle," with piano and bass playing like contrapuntal twins, oscillates waltz time as the two instruments fluff out the harmonics of this intriguing song.

It is a measure of the respect that Herman shares for Brewer's songwriting that he has chosen two of the bassist's fine compositions. In addition to "Perpetua," the simple melody of "And The Rain" sticks in the brain because of its sheer simplicity and the fact that it seems to have been written just for this date. All this goes to making Muse a very intriguing record.

Track Listing: Muse; Con Alma; Vertigo; Lamidbar; Perpetua; Isobel; Joya; Lu Yehi; Twins; And The Rain; Rina Balle.

Personnel: Yaron Herman: piano; Matt Brewer: bass (1-7, 9-11); Gerald Cleaver: drums (2-7, 9-11); Quatuor Ebene String Quartet (1, 6, 11).

Title: Muse | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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