Monika Herzig

Melody Without Words

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Like other jazz musicians living in a college town, pianist Monika Herzig combines pedagogy (she teaches at Indiana University) and gigging (weekly at the Chatterbox in downtown Indianapolis) with recording. In addition to this CD, she has four albums with BeebleBrox, a group she co-leads with her husband. Herzig is also a composer of note, as her "Let's Fool One" was awarded the 1994 Down Beat Award.

In addition to her regular group, John Huber on bass and Steve Davis on drums, other good players sit in on some tracks to augment the group. But because the playing is so busy and urgent, they often get lost in the clutter. "It's You or No One" is especially intense with Sara Caswell's violin, Herzig's piano, and Peter Kienle's guitar simultaneously competing for recognition. It sounds like a bunch of petulant children all vying for attention at the same time. Some separation would have made this track considerably more pleasing to hear. The big loser was Caswell's violin, but she gets redemption on a lovely, sentimental rendition of the Lennon/McCartney "And I Love Her," trading pensive choruses with Peter Kienle's guitar. On "Michael" guest clarinetist Chuck Carter is given some breathing space on this relatively short and sober piece of music composed by Herzig to honor a departed friend.

Herzig and her group certainly offer a variety of jazz genres. "One for the Box" is up-tempo and less discordant than other tracks with a funky guitar by Kienle. Herzig kicks in with some bar room piano, no doubt honed at her Monday night gigs at the Chatterbox. "Could It Be Bop?," with its quirky playing and tempos, is a tip of the hat to Thelonious Monk as she quotes from Monk's music throughout. The album's coda, Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time" from On the Town, reveals the melodic influence of Bill Evans on Herzig. A lovely piece of music respectfully played.

The people can play and there's some good stuff here, but the full benefits of having all this talent are missed given the absence of consistent direction and discipline. The group needs to work in that area.

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