Jake Hertzog & Yishai Fisher: Stringscapes: A Portrait of the World in Nylon & Steel

Geno Thackara By

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It can't be easy to keep thinking of different places to go when one's career is already as eclectic as Jake Hertzog's, but he doesn't seem in any danger of running out of ideas. The guitarist has run an impressive gamut already, from the electric Pat Metheny-inspired fusion session Evolution (Buckyball, 2011) to the more straightforward jazz of Throwback (Zoho, 2013) and the conceptual solo outing Well Lit Shadow (Self Produced, 2016). Teaming up with classical guitarist Yishai Fisher for an all-acoustic expressionist work is really right in character—a step that's natural, inventive and completely unexpected.

'Natural' is indeed the key word here. Stringscapes leans closest to Well Lit Shadow, in that it's based on painting musical pictures rather than playing 'songs' in any recognizable mode—but that's where any similarity to Hertzog's past works (or indeed anyone else's) ends. This is a series of multi-part suites themed around picturesque settings and landscapes. While the simplicity of the two-guitar format could potentially be limiting, these two turn it expansive instead: their respective backgrounds and string tones beautifully complement without any clash.

Within such a bare-bones framework, the remaining variety comes from Hertzog's compositions themselves, each with a story or image behind its structure. "Oceans" starts with the pair bouncing from one not-really-formless motif to another with the suddenness of sloshing waves, for example, before they slow down to portray the quiet mystery of the lower depths. The lines of "Forest" overlap like endless layers of branches, complete with a few skittering taps to suggest wild creatures in the trees. "Arctic" moves from some surprisingly busy counterpoint (the descending notes meant to represent ice caves collapsing), before a sparse stretch that's calm and empty as the tundra. Hertzog and Fisher deliver their intimate recital in fluid unison with taste and eloquence. An affair for engagement over mere passive listening, Stringscapes spins these seemingly simple motifs into a sharply-crafted and evocative journey for the mind.

Track Listing: Forest 1 - Endless Trees; Forest 2 - Funeral in Green; Forest 3 - Leaves in the Dark; Arctic 1 - Stone Blue Veil; Arctic 2 - The Great White Space; Arctic 3 - Cold Life; Oceans 1 - Cascade; Oceans 2 - The Deep; Oceans 3 - Tides; Desert 1 - Dream Catcher; Dream 2 - Ghost of the Mine; Desert 3 - Where the Red Sand Lives.

Personnel: Jake Hertzog: steel-string guitar; Yishai Fisher: nylon-string guitar.

Title: Stringscapes: A Portrait of the World in Nylon & Steel | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Fret Monkey Records

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