Daniel Hersog is a Canadian trumpet player and composer, here presenting his first big band album, a set of sweeping and progressive orchestral jazz which reflects the current state of the world with shifting moods of unease and cautious optimism.
Hersog has a expansive style of writing that draws as much from classical music as jazz. His compositions here are written to feature two main soloists, tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger and pianist Frank Carlberg, much as Gil Evans often wrote for certain musicians. "Motion" has a brooding gospel-folk feel which allows Carlberg to run soulful piano lines in the Keith Jarrett manner, alongside bassist James Meger and drummer Michael Sarin, before an expansive orchestral chorale gives way to an acrobatic Preminger solo. "Indelible" has a mesmerizing blend of staccato horns and undulating melody that sets the scene for Preminger on tenor and Michael Braverman on clarinet to scrape and twist against the drop-step pulse provided by the rhythm section.
"Makeshift Memorial" is a somber mood piece featuring Carlberg's delicate strings of notes and Preminger's ballad serenading, set against Hersog's lovely and immersive orchestra writing. "Cloud Break" is a brisk series of horn fanfares powered by Sarin's drumming. "Song For Henrique" mixes together classical music, tango and free jazz. After the woodwinds weave a dramatic Spanish-flavored introduction, Carlberg solos, fusing together Latin jazz, romanticism and blues. After that, the orchestra dissolves into free time until Preminger's heavy-toned tenor cuts through the chaos, and the Spanish influence returns at the end.
Hersog's writing is strong and evocative as it surrounds and backs the soloists. It particularly stands out in two places. On "Night Devoid Of Stars" the brass section looms and builds ominously against tinkling piano before the entire orchestra breaks into sleek big band shouting, paced by Carlberg's nagging accompaniment. Then there is the one non-original on the program, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." It is played in a slow, menacing fashion with Carlberg taking the Ran Blake approach of carving sharp, off-center bits of the melody out of a dense orchestral cloud before taking off into an eccentric but lovely solo. Its closest antecedent is probably Bob Graettinger's otherworldly arrangement of "You Go To My Head" for the Stan Kenton Orchestra.
Daniel Hersog's writing and arranging is very impressive here. In the tradition of composers like Gil Evans, Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneider he meshes band sections together in interesting ways to create fresh music with a sense of wonder and drama. He is also blessed with an excellent crew of players to realize his works, in particular the invaluable drummer Michael Sarin and soloists Preminger and Carlberg. Hersog comes off here as a major new compositional voice in jazz.
Cloud Break; Motion; Makeshift Memorial; Night Devoid of Stars; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Indelible; Song for
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