Conrad_herwig-heart_darkness_span3
April 1999

Conrad Herwig
Heart of Darkness
Criss Cross Jazz

Maybe I'm suffering from virtuosity overkill, but I have to say that while this album reaches me intellectually it rarely reaches me emotionally. Herwig, a trombonist who has been performing with Joe Henderson, has chops to burn. He plays high and fast, with a clean, full tone and lots of rhythmic energy. Technically, he sometimes reminds me of the way trumpeter Freddie Hubbard used to sound in his early Blue Note days. Walt Weiskopf, on tenor and soprano saxophone, is a blustery, Brecker-out-of-Coltrane player. And Stefon Harris, the other frontline partner, suggests Herbie Hancock translated to vibes. Pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Billy Drummond complete the sextet.

The album opens with the title tune and "Secret Sharer," Herwig compositions titled after Joseph Conrad stories. Throughout these and the leader's other five tunes and the standard "The Lamp Is Low" the blend of trombone and vibes is an intriguing combination, especially when the soprano is added (as on "Secret Sharer"). "Watch Your Steps" (based on Trane's "Giant Steps") and the supersonic "Tilt" showcase Herwig in harmonic and rhythmic regions where other trombonists rarely venture.

Originally published in April 1999
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