JAKE HERTZOG – SENSE OF STYLE AND ENERGY
Author: Antti Backwater
Translated by Laura Ayravainen
Photos: Olli Sulin
A Concert Report
The concert of a guitarist Jake Hertzog at Malmitalo was an exciting sample of the young master's extensive collection of style and of the strength of a small band. At the same time the concert series of Malmitalo got a natural ending. During the last winter it had been – once again – varied and colorful. The guitarist praised by the critics and accepted without a doubt by the audience presented concretely his wonderful musical concept for the first time to a Finnish concert audience. After the event at Malmitalo, the trio also performed in Turku.
Despite his young age, Jake Herzog has created a sturdy career as a musician and a songwriter and he's a real versatile artist. Already a fourth album has been published this year and his stocks are rising quickly on the gig market. It also turned out that he is very friendly and cordial fellow with whom it's pleasant to chat.
Jake's style of playing is unique and has a strong look of its own. He patterns riffs and single-note solos with surprising perfect fourth chords and varies themes apparently only with the aid of his endless imagination. The range of sounds is breathtakingly wide, from heavy metal to country, from jazz to folk music (at times he plays acoustic guitar like a folk musician). Even now at Malmitalo the first number reminded one more of the late Christie band (and the 70's chart hit Yellow River) than a seriously taken jazz musician.
But from there on things rose to completely new dimensions. Jake's live performance is due to a small band size separate from the kind of attempts of overproduction that can sometimes be seen in studio albums – maybe even in some of Jake's own recordings. By re-arranging he's changed some of the tracks on his albums so full of chord material, that it's already almost too perfect. Especially on the album Patterns this trend is easy to notice. Pedals weren't scarce on stage though, and they were in active use. Don't Bother has been played a lot online and it worked beautifully at the concert as well.
The instrument was apparently hand-made and it was absolutely brilliant. The qualities of a guitar always elicit enthusiastic conversation among amateurs and professionals and everyone has their preferences. A factory made guitar rarely fulfills all the needs/wishes; the mics and through them the shades of the sounds, profile of the neck or the specific qualities of the metal parts are not always what one would wish for. Jake's guitar was surprisingly broad necked, even though he himself is pretty small sized and his fingers are also pretty short – not particularly long, which would require a jumbo-neck from a guitar.
Photo by Olli Sul
Guitar master Jake Hertzog
Harvie S, the supporting strength of the band played both the contrabass and the bass guitar.
The drummer Victor Jones, a professional from top to toe
In The Atmosphere
The technique of finger-style resembles at times a bit of the unique technique of Joe Pass where the thumb of the right hand makes accompaniment sounds on the lower strings and the melody moves forward through fingers style – always conveniently modifying the progression of melody by harmony chords. The transition from one position to the next was quick, accurate and easy. The bravura of Bruce Springsteen, Streets of Philadelphia, reaches the atmosphere that the song is about also as an instrumental version:
I walked the avenue till my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of Philadelphia.
His typical way of playing is the style of John Abercrombie's early work, a bit lingering ballad-likeness. "The jazz in flames" that among others Guitar Player [Magazine] has praised him for as a prodigy of the guitar, is also true, but based on this concert and the albums doesn't describe the essence of the young master's playing.
On Patterns he presents without accompaniment the best guitar version ever of the classic Georgia On My Mind. There's something Norah Jones-like in the ballad-like stylizing - the same bright melancholy but without Finno-Ugric boredom and spiritlessness.
Jake Hertzog doesn't observe or copy history in his playing, even though he's aware of it. He's moving effortlessly around the twilight zone of jazz and rock, at times even pop. He's happy to use processed sound, but so far he hasn't gone too far into the world of synth guitar, like Pat Metheny.
The dynamic fusion guitarist brought his long term trio to Finland for a debut. Jake's adaptations create nicely colorful jazz atmosphere; the supporting strength of the band, Harvie S. (contrabass and bass guitar) backed up the guitar player brilliantly. The drummer Victor Jones is also a professional from top to toe. Both have played on Jake's albums and know the material profoundly.
As a stage performer Jake is a charmer and devotes himself to the audience with all his heart. If this fellow becomes the new Joe Satriani (which his playing also resembles a lot, especially during the rock bits), then us Finns can proudly tell that we saw and heard the star already during his early years. Wonderful concert experience!
Photo by Olli Sul