Currently a faculty member at Indiana University, German-born pianist Monika Herzig's press kit features the perfect quote about her marvelously inventive composing and interpreting from fellow jazz academic Cherilee Wadsworth Walker of Eastern Illinois University: "A lovely example of a thoroughly schooled, thoroughly modern jazz pianist." Herzig, who moved to the U.S. in the late '80s for a one-year exchange scholarship program at the University of Alabama and later completed her doctorate at IU, offers a comprehensive view of her multitude of talents and dynamic back story on this unique CD/DVD set. Swinging beautifully with her quartet, she offers a stirring and globally conscious romp throughout the ten tracks (six originals, four covers) of the audio portion. There's whimsy and grace aplenty on the crafty and soulful opener "The Pianists Say" and perfectly charming lyrical elegance to spare on the moody ballad "Come with Me" (featuring the lush violin of Carolyn Dutton). But the real fun begins when Herzig goes traveling, first to Latin America (the heavy chorded, funky, and worldbeat percussive jam "Ole"), and later to Italy for a playful, high energy "Italian Taxi Ride" featuring the dual dynamic of Dutton and tenorman Tom Clark. On this tune, Herzig partly relegates herself to a harmony role as Dutton takes off on a whimsical journey of her own, simulating darting in and out of narrow streets on her way to a jazz club where a taste of Gershwin gives way to Clark's punchy sax whimsy. Later, Herzig snags her own dizzying solo. The pianist simmers the pace down for elegant reimaginings of such pop standards as "Blowin' in the Wind" (mostly a solo piano piece), a moody and sensuous, easy rumbling "What Is This Thing Called Love," and "Still Crazy After All These Years." The final two tracks, her spry original "Paradise on Ice" and a bluesy minimalist take on "Georgia," display the darkness/light, happy/melancholy balance beautifully. The DVD features an exclusive interview/career retrospective, various performance clips, and behind the scenes footage.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran
Track Listing - Disc 1