Frank Herzberg Trio Handmade
A large number of musicians are operating in the jazz orbit these days, but few of them possess the artistry, vision and sense of purpose of bassist Frank Herzberg. Handmade, the new release from the Frank Herzberg Trio, is a showcase for their devilishly mercurial music and it’s been turning quite a few heads. No less an authority on Brazilian music and jazz than the great Arnaldo DeSouteiro has hailed Handmade, calling it “Arguably the best jazz album of the year,” and he excitedly expounds on the virtues of Herzberg’s latest work:
It defies limits, because this is music created by blessed souls, not simple musicians. They deliver a spiritual message through music, and they talk in a universal language. There’s a bit of Brazil, there’s a lot of jazz, but above all there’s originality everywhere. It’s really a massive and challenging set, completely unpredictable, combining density and intensity in the highest possible level.
Herzberg, born and raised in East Berlin, Germany, honed his skills in his homeland before arriving stateside to study at the Berklee College of Music and with the legendary jazz teacher Charlie Banacos. While many of his peers, like drummer Antonio Sanchez and saxophonist Jaques Schwarz-Bart, packed up and moved shop to New York when their schooling was over, Herzberg took the road less traveled. He let his heart be his guide and he followed his love—Brazilian pianist Marta Karassawa—south to São Paulo. In Brazil, he discovered a different language and life, ensconcing himself in the music scene of his adopted homeland.
Since moving to Brazil, Herzberg has become a musical fixture in a multitude of settings. His orchestral credits include work with the Symphonic Band/São Paulo, Jazzsinfonic Orchester/São Paulo, and Orquestra Mediterrania, the last of which has provided him with opportunities to accompany such well-known music royalty as David Liebman, Hermeto Pascoal, Egberto Gismonti, and Airto Moreira. Herzberg is also an active presence in the studio, working as an in-demand producer and/or bassist-for-hire.
During his carrier he has appeared on stage, in the studio, or in workshops with Horace Sliver, Antonio Sanchez, John Stein, Zé Eduardo Nazário, Ithamara Koorax, Bocato, Guilherme Franco, Teco Cardoso, Proveta, André Juarez, Torsten de Winkel, Bob Moses, Jaques Schwartzbart, Steve Hass, Cornelius Claudio Kreusch, Andre Pawelski, and Chris Allen, among others.
While Herzberg has had no shortage of musical outlets and opportunities, his desire to reach people with his own wondrous music eventually came to a head. In 2004, he reached out to two like-minded musical souls—drummer Zé Eduardo Nazário and pianist Alexandre Zamith—and the FRANK HERZBERG TRIO was born. Zamith, who holds a Doctorate in Classical Performance, and Nazário, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of rhythms from Brazil and beyond, have proven to be the perfect partners-in-crime for Herzberg over the course of their eight years together. This trio has wowed audiences at festivals, clubs and workshops, and served as a supportive entity on vibraphonist André Juarez’s well-received Canja and John Steins Concerto Internacional de Jazz, but they bring their own powerful music to bear on Handmade.
The trio explores disorienting odd-metered fare (“Don’t Talk Crazy”), buoyant baião undercurrents (“A Xepa”) and Spanish-tinged settings (“Lorca”) with skill and verve, but those three examples barely scratch the surface. “Too Much, Charlie” is built on shifting groove foundations, “Mil Saudades” is elegant food for the soul, and a four-part suite—“Twelve Bars Down The Road I Met You”—is a thorough and engaging exploration of the blues.
John Stein, a frequent collaborator of Herzberg’s, hit the nail on the head when he noted that Handmade is “an honest name” for this record:
Handmade – hands on keys, hands holding bows and pulling strings, hands using sticks to strike skins and cymbals. This is music made by hand, with intention, devotion and sweat. The ingredients acquired through life-long study, then added, subtracted, mixed, blended, refined, and aged like fine wine in special barrels until the right moment. Now is the time to taste the wine.
Stein, DeSouterio, and countless Brazilian audiences have been won over by the marvelous music that comes from the hands and hearts of these three men. Now, with the release of Handmade, music fans the world over will have the opportunity to hear this one-of-a-kind trio at the height of their powers.