On his debut recording as a leader, 35-year-old Daniel Hersog accomplishes a rare feat for a newcomer, constructing beautiful sonic tableaus with wide-span colors and moods. The exceptional 16-piece ensemble he fronts also includes tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger, pianist Frank Carlberg, and drummer Michael Sarin.
Prior to this achievement, Hersog was just another road-dog jazz musician, having toured with ensembles that included Terry Clarke, Jason Palmer, and Kim Cass, as well as Preminger and Carlberg. He won the Gunther Schuller Medal while attending the New England Conservatory in 2016, and currently teaches jazz trumpet at Capilano University in British Columbia.
An album of warm, disparate originals, Night Devoid of Stars certainly isn’t devoid of beauty—it revels in it. A lover of the work of Gil Evans, Hersog honors the master in similar tone poem-like displays of orchestration and dynamics. “Cloud Break” opens the album, a constantly scene-changing piece moving from tense to joyful. Carlberg introduces “Motion” with an Americana lilt, followed by a rubato sequence held aloft by Sarin that eventually settles into a floating pulse fired by evocative solos all around. “Makeshift Memorial” takes melancholy as its main mood, while the title song initially recalls Alexander Courage’s Star Trek theme before delivering crime jazz worthy of Lalo Schifrin, with kinetic solos amid lush orchestral voicings, including a fiery Preminger improvisation.
Titled after a line in Martin Luther King’s 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, and reportedly composed with TV news playing in the background, Night Devoid of Stars provides welcome respite from the tragedy of today’s realities.