By Sébastien Hélary, Next Bop
There is no denying that jazz music is going through a form of globalization, branching out into other musical realms, drawing inspiration from other established genres. The musicians on the cutting edge right now are building upon the discipline, theory and improvisational skills learned from the century-old tradition of jazz and augmenting the music with textures and soundscapes acquired from other styles, predominantly hip hop, neo soul, indie rock, electronica, and the likes. Montreal-based pianist Matt Herskowitz has been doing just that for most of his career. A staple of the Montreal jazz scene, Herskowitz has developed over the years a truly unique and distinctive style, heavily influenced by classical music which he improvises in real-time. Last October, the pianist released his newest solo outing Mirror Image on Montreal label Justin Time, a thoughtful and subdued 10-track record featuring originals as well as reinterpretations of works by French composers Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel, and New Orleans-born pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, in addition to the jazz standard “My One and Only Love”.
The album amounts to a peaceful reverie, perfect for a quiet interlude of soul searching and introspection, sure to allure aficionados of classical music looking for new and original material. You can stream Herskowitz’ take on Gottschalk’s “The Last Hope” below for a foray into his musical universe. In the pianist’s own words “I always found the theme of ‘The Last Hope’ to be quite hymnal in nature – apparently, I wasn’t the first! As it turns out, this theme was used in many American hymns, the most popular being “Mercy”, which appears in 272 hymnals today. In my head, I heard it as a very compelling Gospel tune, so I was not entirely surprised to later learn that it was indeed used as a Gospel hymn at some point. I decided to incorporate this imagined Gospel interpretation into the piece, which I otherwise left alone. Despite all the decorative, romantic filigree floating throughout the piece, I find that it really works as a kind of reflective, meditative pause on the tune, which then becomes a full-on Gospel service climax before easing back into the charming, decorative romantic style from whence it began. I’d like to think that Gottschalk would have dug it.”