By: Matt Warnock
Growing up in Berlin, and Conservatory trained, bassist Frank Herzberg moved to Brazil 14 years ago. After living in the South American nation for four years, the bassist began a musical partnership with drummer Zé Eduardo Nazário and pianist Alexandre Zamith, one that continues to this day and can be heard on the trio’s latest recording, Handmade. The album, a collection of eight tracks, is a mix of modern jazz, Brazilian grooves and American funk. No matter where the trio takes the music, one thing remains the same, the high level of creativity, musicianship and interaction that these three musicians bring to the table.
The members of the FH trio are all very accomplished individuals, but what makes this recording successful is their interaction as a group. Even when they are soloing, they make it a conversation rather than one person stepping forward into the spotlight while the rest accompany their lines or rhythms. This approach can be heard on tracks such as “Mil Saudades,” where the group grows the track from a solo bass part, to an interactive rubato section with the trio, before finally coming together on the main groove in the melody section. This kind of interaction and communication can only come from spending years together in the rehearsal room, on band stands and in the recording studio, and it is a testament to the dedication these three musicians have to their ensemble, and not just to their individual performances.
While there are moments on the album that move into the modern jazz and Brazilian jazz realm, one of the highlights is the track “A Xepa.” Written by Nazário in 1976, when he was a member of Brazilian legend Hermeto Pascoal’s ensemble, the song features a traditional Baiáo groove that the band lays down with energy and conviction. Playing off of the light-hearted beat that underlies the track, the melody and improvised sections come together in a seamless fashion, growing out of and into each other in an organic fashion that goes beyond the standard head-solo-head formula. Not only is this a fun rhythm to groove along to, but the composition and arrangement come together to showcase the individual talents of the member of the trio without taking away from the overall fell of the ensemble.
Overall, Handmade is a strong release by this talented trio of Brazilian, and transplanted Brazilian musicians. The grooves are energetic, the improvisations conversational and melodic and the melodic focus is never lost in the shuffle, all ingredients of a solid jazz trio record.