As I struggle to make it through even one version of a standard without screwing up the chords, it never ceases to amaze me how many really good traditional jazz guitarists are out there. And I’m talking fellas you may never have heard of, like Steve Herberman.
Playing a seven-string guitar, Herberman shows himself to be a wonderful player with a great touch, a first-rate interpreter, and a composer of originals that stick in your mind and allow him and his band ample room to stretch out and showcase their skills.
The title cut is a nice ballad that lets Herberman show off his harmonic talents. Beautiful changes frame the song, and his soloing follows lots of trails but always finds its way back home. In fact, solos throughout the record are like that. He’s extremely imaginative and plays with the fire that’s needed. Check out the band’s take on Duke Pearson’s “Jeanine.” It swings hard, and gives everybody, especially Herberman a chance to blow through changes wonderfully. The classic “A Smooth One” gets a bluesy take with Herberman mixing chords, octaves, and single-line work. “I Wish I Knew” lets Steve fly both as a soloist and as a guitarist supplying smooth comping for saxophonist Bruce Swaim. Swaim, by the way also shines as a soloist throughout. And bassist Victor Dvoskin and drummer Dominic Smith as solid as rocks, whether laying down the background or soloing.
If you love traditional jazz guitar, you’ll love Herberman. He’s a stylist a la Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, and Wes Montgomery.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.