Action : Reaction is the debut of an accomplished modern jazz trio led by Steve Herberman, an impressive young guitarist and composer based in the Washington DC area. Like Gene Bertoncini (who supplied brief liner notes for this CD,) Herberman plays a seven string guitar, with the extra string on the low end. Though this might seem like a gimmick to some purists, the thought is quickly dispelled upon hearing the first track - "Cos’ Groove." It’s immediately apparent that all aspects of Herberman’s game are beautifully realized, and that the rhythm section - Mark Ferber on drums and Drew Gress on bass - is one of the best in the business.
Action : Reaction, Herberman's second recording as a leader, is comprised entirely of original compositions which fit comfortably in the modern jazz mainstream, albeit with some appealing left-of center twists. "Cos’ Groove" has an engagingly dark modal feel, and Ferber has a field day with the rolling 12/8 rhythm. While Herberman doesn’t sound a great deal like John Scofield, "Be Nimble" nods towards blues in the way that much of Scofield’s Blue Note quartet CDs do. "Worry Not" is centered around a sly alternation of funk, boogaloo, and straight-ahead jazz feels, with Gress’ bass bobbing, feinting, and weaving like Floyd Mayweather. Gress and Ferber really drive the exultant, energetic "Snap!," a piece that reminded me somewhat of Pat Metheny’s seminal "Bright Size Life" album. The ballad side of the house is represented by two lush, introspective pieces - "Nearly Time" and "Halcyon Air."
Though his primary influences seem to be from a previous generation of jazz guitarists (Jim Hall and Tal Farlow leapt to my mind), the overall sound and feel of this CD is somewhat like John Abercrombie’s recent work, and Pat Metheny’s ECM debut; "Bright Size Life." Mind you - Herberman is no Metheny acolyte, but his music and improvisations have a similar sense of wit, grace, and intelligence. Like Metheny and Abercrombie, Herberman has put a great deal of thought into his overall guitar sound. The fact that he sticks with a pure, open jazz guitar tone throughout Action : Reaction is, for once, a real strength. Exclusively a fingerstyle player, Herberman constantly varies his attack and approach to generate and hold interest. His playing and composing throughout Action : Reaction are top-notch. Highly recommended to all jazz guitar fans, and to fans of modern jazz in general.