Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra, Open Spaces (Folk Songs Reimagined) Review
Reimagining Folk: The Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra’s Expansive Journey in Open Spaces
by Stamish Malcuss
Open Spaces (Folk Songs Reimagined) by the seventeen member Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra presents an expansive landscape of innovative orchestration, glistening with the colors of a modern, dynamic ensemble. This album, distinct from Hersog’s darker debut, “Night Devoid of Stars,” sings of hope, resilience, and optimism through the lens of a reimagined folk tradition.
The unique sound in Open Spaces (Folk Songs Reimagined) springs from Hersog’s audacious use of unconventional instruments within a large ensemble. This approach casts an entirely new light on the material, with songs transformed by the resonance of the bass clarinet, the emotive melodies of the oboe, the lyrical flow of the flute, and even the orchestral textures provided by the cello, harp, and glockenspiel.
In “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” for example, Hersog cleverly employs a marching snare pattern with the oboe’s tonal range to build an atmospheric narrative imbued with a tangible sense of loss, resilience, and haunting beauty. Noah Preminger’s saxophone solo is an intense moment of the building storm leading to Frank Carlberg’s piano solo depicting the moment of doom and the sinking. Meanwhile, the bass clarinet’s deep, resonant tones in “Shenandoah” add a sense of grandeur and lightness that complement the song’s innate majesty. Here Hesog’s pastel orchestration captures the beauty between jazz harmony and classical orchestration.
“Canadian Folk Song” opens with an impressively fluid solo guitar introduction by Kurt Rosenwinkel. The melody is gently passed through the various sections of the ensemble during the course of the song. The slow waltz is the perfect setting to hear the rich harmonic and dynamic colors of the orchestra. The use of dynamics as key phrases ebb and flow with volume to pull out even more emotions.
The consummate counterpoint employed in “Sarracenia Purpurea” further underscores Hersog’s musical sophistication. The use of rhythmic cross rhythms are also employed for further textures as multiple melodies interweave, giving a dynamic energy and intricacy to the arrangement, while his memorable and accessible harmonies in “Red River Valley” showcase Hersog’s talent for orchestral balance and flow.
Comparatively, Hersog’s debut album, Night Devoid of Stars, presented a more intimate ensemble with a focus on traditional sounds and melodies. It delved into themes of loss and longing, anchored by traditional instrumentation of piano, trumpet, saxophone, bass, and drums. The contrasts between the two albums accentuate Hersog’s versatility and his willingness to push boundaries as an arranger and a composer.
The more structured and composed solos of “Night Devoid of Stars” give way to more improvisational and free-flowing solos in “Open Spaces,” reflecting a musical evolution towards a more adventurous soundscape. This shift adds a spontaneous and exciting dimension to the listening experience.
Open Spaces (Folk Songs Reimagined) is a testament to Hersog’s progression as a musician and his audacious approach to jazz. It ventures into new territories, reimagining familiar folk songs with a distinct sound that sets it apart in today’s jazz landscape. Hersog’s bold exploration of musical textures, his innovative use of instrumentation, and his ability to reimagine traditional material underscore his growing influence in contemporary jazz.