Yaron Herman: Variations (2006)
Variations is Israeli-born pianist Yaron Herman's first solo release. Now 25, he didn't start studying piano until he was sixteen. At nineteen he moved to Boston to attend Berklee, but was turned off by its competitive climate; a return stopover in Paris and a spontaneous jam session led to a recording contract and a new home. His first recording was a well-received duo with drummer Sylvain Ghio called Takes 2 to Know (Sketch, 2005).
Variations is an intriguing disc that's full of lovely moments. The first tune to undergo variation is Gershwin's sadly overexposed and amateur-mangled "Summertime"; fortunately, Herman's reharmonization uncovers newly gleaming facets of harmony and feeling. The third variation on "Summertime" is actually a wholly different compositionNaomi Shemer's gorgeous "Jerusalem of Gold"but Herman underscores the similarities in tone and mood to create a seamlessly integrated whole.
Herman shows off his chops on the dramatic, kaleidoscopic "Fugue," gets funky with Sting's "Fragile," and spins a shimmer of (nostalgic?) beauty out of "Eli, Eli" and "Ose Shalom." The longest track is Clare Fischer's haunting "Hommage a Francis Paudras," written for the man who famously befriended Bud Powell. Herman makes it pensive and ethereal.
Given Herman's meditative bent, his grasp of dynamics, and (especially) his occasionally audible, tuneless vocalizing, comparisons to Keith Jarrett will be inevitable. But his is a singular voice that richly deserves to develop in its own direction.
Track Listing: Summertime; Blossom (var. 1); Facing him (var. 2); Jerusalem of gold (var. 3); Libera me; Fugue (var. 1); Eli ELi (var. 2); Pie Jesu (var. 3); Ose Shalom; Drops (var. 1); Le temps du Conteur (var. 2); Fragile; Hommage a Francis Paudras.
Personnel: Yaron Herman: piano.