Cellar Records

Daniel Hersog – Conductor; Ben Kono – Oboe, Soprano Sax, Flute, Clarinet; Ben Henriques – Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Clarinet; Noah Preminger – Tenor Sax; Tom Keenlyside – Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo, Tenor Sax; Scott Robinson – Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet, Flute; Michael Kim – Trumpet & Flugelhorn; Brad Turner – Trumpet & Flugelhorn; Derry Byrne – Trumpet & Flugelhorn; Jocelyn Waugh – Trumpet & Flugelhorn; Jeremy Berkman – Trombone; Jim Hopson – Trombone, Euphonium; Andrew Poirier – Trombone; Sharman King – Bass Trombone; Kurt Rosenwinkel – Guitar; Frank Carlberg – Piano; Kim Cass – Bass; Dan Weiss – Drums

Daniel Hersog was sick to death of dealing with the Covid lockdown and all of its restrictions, so he turned to the familiar. He found himself revisiting the music he liked as a child, folk songs, songs about the great open spaces, songs about tranquility, songs you could sing around a campfire, or in an elementry school classroom.

OPEN SPACES, FOLK SONGS REIMAGINED by the Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra is the result. Six of the ten compositions are by Hersog, the rest, we all know.

My girlfriend and I listened to a lot of Gordon Lightfoot in high school. ‘The Wreck Of the Edmund Fitzgerald ’was a favorite. At the time I could not have imagined a jazz orchestra taking on the song, much less doing it justice. Hersog’s arrangement starts off sounding very confident. Dan Weiss’s drumming is precise, and there is Lightfoot’s familiar melody. Noah Preminger’s tenor saxophone signals that the ship might not have picked the best time to venture out on rough seas. Kurt Rosenwinkel’s guitar adds to the tension. The cacophony from Frank Carlberg’s piano and Weiss on drums signal the end of the mighty ship. Hersog added an epilogue. He wanted the world to go on, the sun to rise, sailors to sail again. There’s an ostinato in the rhythm section, brass and woodwinds trade ideas, and Michael Kim’s trumpet soars over everything.

‘How Many Roads ’is a reconceived ‘Blowin ’In the Wind.’ I can’t imagine Joan Baez singing this arrangement but there is some very good music here. I like the thoughtfulness of Hersog’s scoring for the woodwinds. This is closer to a classical piece but then Frank Carlberg gets piano jazz funky. Kim Cass joins in with a really nice walking bass line. Drums are terrific. The brass section steps in and things are sounding like a pretty hip jazz orchestra.

‘Ahead By A Century ’is a classic Canadian rock song by Tragically Hip. I couldn’t detect the original melody as easily as the press release said you could, but that’s fine. This is a very interesting up-tempo piece with some great solos from Brad Turner on trumpet, and Ben Kono on soprano saxophone. Hersog’s arrangement has a deep, layered sound. The rich harmonies and the dynamic range are formidable. Gil Evans was an early inspiration. I think Gil would have approved of this.

’Shenandoah ’dates from the nineteenth century. You would think with the countless number of recorded versions, everyone would be sick of it. Hersog’s arrangement turns it into something new. Scott Robinson’s baritone sax solo is achingly outa this world. Oboes aren’t that common in a jazz orchestra but Ben Kono solos beautifully on the instrument.

Hersog wanted to write a song you could sing around a campfire, and ‘Canadian Folk Song ’was born. Kurt Rosenwinkel’s guitar intro is drop-dead gorgeous. The orchestra comes in sounding a little like Aaron Copland. Noah Preminger has a beautiful, sultry tenor sax solo.

The Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra was nominated for jazz artist of the year at the Western Canadian music awards. After listening to OPEN SPACES, FOLK SONGS REIMAGINED, I am not surprised. Hersog isn’t the first to mix jazz and folk music. Fred Katz’s FOLK SONGS FOR FAR OUT FOLK from 1958 was an early example. Charles Lloyd mixed jazz and folk, so did Maria Schneider, and let’s not forget John Coltrane’s ‘Greensleeves.’