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Ideals by Steve Herberman

Reviewing his previous recording, Action: Reaction, from 2006, I referred to Steve Herberman as a "guitarist's guitarist," and cited enthusiastic endorsements from fellow guitarists such as Jimmy Bruno and Gene Bertoncini. I have also noted in other reviews that many artists seem to really hit their stride with their third recording. Well, Herberman has now released his third CD and, guess what, he has really hit his stride!

As with Action: Reaction, for Ideals Herberman has opted for the highly demanding format of a trio, his guitar accompanied by just bass and drums. Unlike the previous session, however, which featured all original compositions, the selections here combine more of Herberman's originals with some carefully selected standards. "I love to play standards," he told me, "and I also want my recordings, at least this one, to sound as much as possible the way the group sounds live. These are the two ideals reflected in the title." On balance, he has achieved his goals; the group's enjoyment of the material is evident throughout, and their treatment of the songs has all the spontaneity of their live performances.

The guitar is an extraordinary instrument in the range of styles it can support --- from the Dionysian impulses of headbangers to the subtleties of Castelnuovo-Tedesco or Villa-Lobos. For jazz players, the guitar often brings out their thoughtful side, and if there is one word that describes Herberman's music it is thoughtful; from the selection of material and the other musicians on the date, to the way he spins out his solo lines and chooses the chord voicings to accompany them, everything he does is thoughtful. This does not make his music excessively cerebral--his lines swing hard and a sense of fun pervades all of his performances, balanced by the lyricism with which he approaches his ballad performances. For the latter check out "Soon," for the former, "I Want To Be Happy" (erroneously labeled as "Get Happy" on some pressings). Other selections, "She's For Me," "Soul Eyes," "Delilah," exhibit Herberman's way with standards--recognizable but subtly transformed.

Regrettably, his is not a recording that will make a big splash, as "Guitarist Exhibits Subtlety and Taste," or "Rhythm Section Supports Unobtrusively" do not make great headlines, even in the music press. But, make no mistake--this release makes news. How about "Major Jazz Artist Emerging in Maryland!"

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Steve Herberman
  • CD Title: Ideals
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Reach Music Label
  • Tracks: This Is New, Let Go, Will You Still Be Mine?, Delilah, Ideals, She’s For Me, Soul Eyes, Soon, I Want To Be Happy, Someone To Light Up My Life, Upbeat
  • Musicians: Steve Herberman (guitar), Tom Baldwin (bass), and Mark Ferber (drums)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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