Sometimes where the music is played is just as important as the music being played. The walls at Bakers Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, the world’s oldest jazz club in the world, has been soaking up the rich sounds of jazz for over 72 years, and almost every jazz musician of national importance has added to the soaking. Mark Hershberger’s latest release, Live in Detroit, Global Jazz Trio at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, squeezes some of that sublime jazz juice out of those walls with a live recording of well-known standards and originals.
Hershberger defines the Global Jazz Trio as; "weaving ethnic influences and spirit into their music, to create wild jazzy global beats to traditional jazz to Coltrane’s avant-garde ‘out there’ expressions." The trio is comprised of Mark Hershberger (saxes) Richard Smith (bass) and Muruga Booker (drums). Having no chordal instrument in the group provides amply space for Hershberger and Booker to fill in with Smith keeping a solid foundation.
The first thing to remember about this project is that it is live. Hershberger seemed to want to capture the true essence of Bakers Keyboard Lounge by allowing the sounds of the room (talking and dish noises) to be recorded on disc as well as the music. The result is similar to some of the live albums from the 60’s; Bill Evans Secret Sessions and Live at the Five Spot with Monk and Coltrane. Hershberger also switches on an unusual amount of reverb on his saxophone sound that takes a few moments to get use to hearing.
The trio really shines on "Impression." Starting with a fiery drum intro by Booker that displays his arsenal of talent and command of colors from his drum set and auxiliary percussion that draws forth many "yeah’s" from the audience. Hershberger starts the melody and than slowly develops his solo through various styles to a logical musical climax, Hershberger implements some Jewish music phrasing that furthers the global jazz concept. The interaction between Booker and Hershberger is very communicative and musical. At the end of Hershberger’s solo and audience member can be heard saying, "All right now! Good turn!"
An interesting version of Norah Jones’s "Come Away With Me" is a surprise and shows the group stays current on the jazz scene of today. "St. Thomas" finds the trio exploring more traditional territory with a nice solo by Hershberger. Live in Detroit, Global Jazz Trio at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is a blend of jazz and world beats with an emphasis on interaction and improvisation with raw energy emotion. Hershberger and friends added their spirit and perspiration to the jazz soaking history Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.