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Action / Reaction by Steve Herberman

I have written quite frequently now about artists who would be better known if they lived in New York or Los Angeles. There is no better case-in-point than guitarist Steve Herberman. A resident of Chevy Chase in suburban Maryland, he has appeared at Blues Alley, The Smithsonian Jazz Cafe, The Kennedy Center and the East Coast Jazz Festival in the area, and at Birdland in New York and Spazios in L.A. But if was to be found at Birdland, the Blue Note, and the Village Vanguard on a regular basis, rather than at Washington's Sala Thai restaurant and Tabard Inn, great as those locations are, he would probably be showing up in the Down Beat polls by now. But he prefers to stay in the ‘burbs, teach at Towson University near Baltimore, and win "Dad of the Month" awards. But with the attention his new release is getting he may begin to get the national attention he deserves.

He is already something of a guitarist's guitarist. "His talent has such an energetic flare, with his own voice, that he cannot help become a major force in jazz," writes Jude Hibler of 20th Century Guitar magazine. Jazz guitarist Jimmy Bruno states "Steve Herberman is one of the freshest new jazz voices on the scene today." Jim Hall raved about his earlier recording, and no less a figure than Gene Bertoncini contributed the following appreciation for the notes to this recording:

"This Steve Herberman CD is everything its title suggests and is truly something out of the ordinary. His compositions put a smile on your face and they feel 'at home' right from the first listening. Each one has a mind of its own; all of this a major achievement for an album of original music. Steve's improvising is uniquely fresh with melodic ideas that twist and turn and perk your interest with occasional elements of humor as well. There is a constant groove in his solo lines. He shows prowess harmonically and linearly with an abundance of chops and with an exceptional clarity to it all. His fellow players Drew Gress and Mark Ferber are also brilliant soloists and display the same kind of ingenuity, creativity, freshness and response at all times. The trio maintains a general 'cooking' quality throughout the entire recording." Bertoncini has virtually written my review; I have to agree with everything he says.

Unlike his previous session, which featured a quartet with a horn player, playing a mixture of originals and standards, Herberman has opted here for a trio, just guitar bass and drums, playing all original compositions. This is even more challenging; it's all Herberman all the time. That he pulls it off is a testament to his status as a performing artist. His approach to the guitar is thoughtful and harmonically sophisticated, demonstrating a mastery of the difficult and somewhat rare fingerstyle technique, and reflecting an indebtedness to Ed Bickert, Jim Hall, Joe Pass and George Van Epps, the latter having inspired him to take up the seven-string guitar which he now uses almost exclusively. But there is nothing dry or over-technical about his playing; he utilizes his considerable chops to create lines full of melodic interest, injected with color and occasional humor--and he swings. His compositions are extensions of his playing, with an improvisational feel. While his music is guitar-centric, you do not have to be a guitarist to enjoy his playing.

As accompanist and main foil to Steve's guitar, bassist Drew Gress does a truly excellent job, and drummer Ferber knows exactly how to play within the trio context, supporting and accenting without ever getting in the way; and that's a big deal for a drummer.

Action: Reaction demonstrates that Steve Herberman is a major contributor to the jazz guitar tradition.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Herberman
  • CD Title: Action / Reaction
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Reach Music
  • Rating: Four Stars
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