Fans of classical/jazz virtuoso Matt Herskowitz’s 2010 album Jerusalem Trilogy have something to look forward to come January 8, 2013 with the release of his solo album Matt Herskowitz Upstairs. Recorded live at Montreal’s Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, the album features eight tracks of Herskowitz’s patented blend of classical and jazz influences. It includes takes on works like Robert Schumann’s “Träumerei” and Bach’s “Prelude in C Minor,” as well as a nod to Dave Brubeck with Brubeck’s Chopin homage “Dziekuye” and Michel Petrucciani’s “Cantabile.” Add two of his own compositions and a couple of Gershwin standards, “But Not for Me” and “I’ve Got Rhythm” and you’ve got an album likely to be a worthy successor to the pianist’s earlier critical successes.
The three tracks made available online for the media/critics more than meet expectations. “Cantablile,” which sounds a lot like “Jeepers Creepers” has something of a gospel feel that develops joyfully. “It has a thoroughly infectious groove, simple and beautiful chord changes, and permeates a feeling of cool optimism. You can take it anywhere you feel like going, from a big, crazy jam to a lonely, reflective inner moment, and it always shines through,” says Herskowitz. “Bach à la Jazz” is arranged as a waltz and was featured in the film The Triplets of Belleville. “I’ve Got Rhythm” takes the standard in new directions. As Herskowitz says, it’s the kind of classic everyone recognizes immediately even if you try to disguise it. It gives the improviser an opportunity to build on that familiarity, “so you’ve got a lot of room to run with on that one.”
If the rest of the album measures up to these three pieces, Herskowitz has put together another album you’ll want to check out with care.