Ms. Herzig's lush, offhand tonal vocabulary stuck in my craw at an odd angle the first time I listened to this and I couldn't quite place it. Highly tuneful, some nice twists, and then one day I put on one of Grachan Moncur III's Blue Note records from the 1960s, and there it was. I can't guarantee that this very accomplished young pianist is familiar with my favorite trombone player of all time, but it was a delightful surprise and I think that even if you have fewer records than I do you'll find something here that you'll like as well.
The title "Evening Mood" might make one expect something low-key and
relaxed, but no, it's frenetic and jittery in a south-of-the-border kind of way, and it just cries out for Mr. Moncur to rip on the chord changes. Since Ms. Herzig is the mom of two lovely little daughters (noted duly on the front cover, named Melody Valentina and Jasmin Harmony), possibly the energetic cadence of "Evening Mood" is more meant to put one in mind of getting the little ones washed up and off to bed. Yes, a certain "twee" factor seems possible but no worries. The music is mostly Ms. Herzig's with a snappy cover of Jerome Kern's "The Song Is You" and an even better "Yardbird Suite." Now that take's a killer! Pat Harbison's trumpet hangs back just slightly on the beat as if he were expecting Bird to leap in a la Lester, and Steve Davis' percussion is right on the money; he even taps the drum case in the manner of Jimmy Cobb during Ms. Herzig's piano break, but not all the way through as if to say 'OK, I've represented, now back to what I usually do' The spirit here is refreshing, the tunes clich'-free, and the secret weapon on board is Peter Kienle, Ms. Herzig's husband and a guitarist of no small subtlety - check his solo on "Blues for a Rainy Day." Soprano sax player Tom Clark nicely puts over the top a good arrangement of George Harrison's "Something," a tune which to my mind seems too tightly composed to do much with in a Jazz setting. I notice that with a lot of other non-jazz composers, Stephen Sondheim as well. Nice try, there. But the rest of the CD is as good as I've heard recently: "Melody's Adventures" begins with a short valedictory by the young lady herself, and her mom's chiming piano takes over for a gentle, understanding romp through what may well be an adult's view of a child's world. Sweet and well done! I should also add kudos for the beautiful "Special Moments" and the efforts of two fine bass players, Frank Smith and Jack Helsley, who split up duties.
At the end of the CD are several children's songs sung by Melody, as well as 3-year-olds can be expected: I dug 'em since I fondly recall when my own were that age. But even if you're a member of the W.C. Fields School of Child Rearing ("Anybody who hates dogs and little children can"t be all bad"), there are enough non-toddler pleasures to be had here to give this a serious try anyway.
by Ken Egbert
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