At age 22, electric jazz guitarist Jake Hertzog graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, organized a program of originals and standards, and asked bassist Harvie Swartz and drummer Victor Jones to join him on this, his debut recording. Hertzog straddles the line between rock, funk, and jazz with this effort, sampling individual portions of the three genres while being allied to no single style. His tone is definitely a throwback to those of Mike Stern, Allan Holdsworth, or even Gary Boyle, amplified and pronounced, showing few shades of nuance. It's clear this young musician has yet to find a personal voice, and that should not be expected. What Hertzog does bring forth is a confident attitude and youthful exuberance, with the naïveté of his few years superseding sophistication. At his best on the nice waltz "Lullaby for a Dreamer," he uses an economic restraint that suits the music well, while "Oberon" exploits his keen melodic sense in a 5/4 time signature, overdubbing electric and acoustic guitars. His solo guitar take of "Falling in Love with Love" is fairly patient and not bad at all, while his overdubs during "Nectarine," with a bop swinging middle section, show a tasteful, more interesting side. Pianist Michael Wolff appears on four tracks, misidentified and counted wrong in the credits. He adds to the subtle nature of "Ballad" and helps swing along "Nectarine" quite well. Unfortunately, there are missteps, as Hertzog rushes on a sloppy read of "Almost Like Being in Love," goes nowhere on the somewhat angular "Bonding," is more commercial and funky with Wolff (who does add interest) on "Back," and does not interpret "In Your Own Sweet Way" very convincingly. Leaping intervals during the quirky "Monkey Stuff" yields mixed results, and the opener, "California Hills," cops far too many of the aforementioned influences in a jazz-rock vein. This is a first effort, so hopefully taste levels and honing of raw edges can be refined to produce a more original, less produced, and less image-driven sound next time around.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos