Now, here’s harmonica, traditional jazz, and funk meeting in a way I’ve not experienced since the unsurpassed days of the funk of Little Stevie Wonder (the '60s never could manage to top that genius!). David Hertzhaft opens one’s eyes and ears to a new approach to the merger, and it works like a charm here on this impressive 2-disc set, Jazzin' Around.
Let’s start with disc 1. From the opening self-penned banger, "NYC Groove" to Coltrane’s "Impressions" to a unique and funky and reggae-laden rendition of Gershwin’s "Summertime" (never heard anything like this - so "retooled" that it’s practically unrecognizable yet undeniably and remarkably refreshing), it is beyond impressive and refreshing to see a mind so provocative and engaging so as to mold the likes of these gems. The sultriness and slickness of Dizzy Gillespie’s "A Night in Tunisia" is not to go unnoticed, either. You can actually close your eyes and envision Hertzhaft working this piece side-by-side with Dizzy in a magically interwoven collage of style. Straight-Ahead is not overlooked either, as Hertzhaft demonstrates on his own fluid composition "Jazzin’ Around" and his cover of Coltrane’s classic "Giant Steps."
Not quite as impressive as Disc 1, Disc 2 still opens with some notable scale work by the talented Hertzhaft and quickly evolves into a Caribbean-tinged goodie that has all the rhythmic and saucy quality of an island sunrise. That’s followed by the melancholy sway of Jobim’s "How Insensitive." There’s the spicy Cajun slice of the south in "Louisiana," a piece that endeavors to cross several genres and defy classification and provides some slick fiddle work from Thierry Lecoq and cool accordion pizzazz from Samuel Garcia. Also, like any jazz musician worth his mettle, Hertzhaft tips his hat to Miles ("Blue in Green") in a guitar/harmonica duet. Overall, Jazzin' Around is, indeed, a well-done album.