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Throwback-- Jake Hertzog

The dynamic young guitarist Jake Hertzog has successfully straddled the worlds of jazz and rock, and this CD is already his fourth with a core trio that includes bassist Harvie S and drummer Victor Jones. Hertzog has also been the lead guitarist for Nickelodeon's The Naked Brothers Band, and now co-leads the rock band The Young Presidents, while also writing for Guitar Player magazine as "Hey Jazz Guy" with coinciding instructional videos on You Tube. This CD confirms Hertzog's evolving maturity as both a player and composer since winning the 2006 Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition, but also stands out for the inclusion on six tracks of the esteemed trumpeter Randy Brecker. Hertzog's idea was to have Brecker play a role similar to lead singers such as Bono, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Chris Cornell, and the ever-adaptable Brecker--think The Brecker Brothers for one--rises to the occasion with the expected enthusiasm and self-contained artistry. As for Hertzog, who has described his own style as "a combination of Wes Montgomery, U2 and Jimi Hendrix," this is his most jazz-centric recording to date, hence the title "Throwback."

The high-power opening of "All Over Now," the first of nine Hertzog compositons, belies the lyrical mellow theme from Brecker's flugelhorn that follows, although Jones' emphatic drum work retains that initial edge for the duration. Hertzog's solo spurts and lags at will but generally marches towards an ultimately stirring crescendo. Brecker's rich sound enhances his cascading lines and more stabbing punctuations. For "Cleared to Fly," Hertzog's vamp intermingles with Brecker's exposition of the twirling theme, although they also join in tight unison at one point. The guitarist's solo assuredly links various motifs with blues-inflected scalar runs, while Brecker's is characteristically uninhibited in its commitment but yet without a drop of extraneous showboating. The Harvie S / Jones tandem is infectiously effervescent throughout this track. "Is It Summer" is an enchanting 2:20 miniature that finds Harvie S' arco bass and Hertzog's chiming tones weaving a delicate spell, accentuated by Jones' subtle cymbal hues.

Jones' slamming back beat and Harvie S' prominent electric bass lines during "Entropy" elevate Brecker's velvety trumpet portrayal of the undulating, logically constructed theme. This elastic fusion creation is highlighted by the high energy, intuitive give-and-take between Hertzog and Brecker, which soars to a thrilling climax. The "slightly off-kiltered" head of "Hands On" fits what Hertzog calls "drunken Thelonious Monk," and he smokes it at an up-tempo, as Jones excels on both sticks and brushes, the latter in the course of Harvie S' compelling improv. This tight trio escapade is somehow both lighthearted and a serious display of their top-notch musicianship. Hertzog's tranquil intro paves the way for Brecker's exquisite, heartfelt unveiling of the bittersweet "Sending Home." As the trumpeter elaborates upon it, his intensity gradually accelerates, along with that of Hertzog, Harvie S, and Jones, reaching a moving resolution before a definitive thematic release.

"Sweet Moon" contains a swaying staccato theme, snaky guitar motifs, churning bass patterns, and overall turbulent percussive flow, all key ingredients that propel outstanding improvisations from Hertzog and Brecker, each one absorbing yet differing pleasingly in their personal conceptions. With Brecker laying out on "First to Rise," it's Hertzog's turn to captivate with a lovely, pristine timbre as he unfurls a melody possessing what he calls "that Midwestern thing" heard in much of the music of Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell. Being from Champaign / Urbana, Illinois himself, it seems second nature to Hertzog as well in this memorable evocation of the "heartland." Unusually, Hertzog left the title tune "Throwback" for last. A soulful fusion vibe permeates from the start, as Brecker plays the intrepid theme with glowing articulation and builds a solo with his customary expertise and emotional thrust. Hertzog's multi-dimensional romp explores various moods and tempos prior to its forceful final bars. Jones' all-out attack predominates the out chorus, with the guitarist and trumpeter's overlapping vamps bolstering the drummer's potent statement.

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Scott Albin