Max Light Trio ‘Herplusme’ CD (Red Piano) 4/5

Max Light, originally from Washington DC and now resident New Yorker, is a guitarist who sits comfortably alongside contemporaries such as Julian Lage, Lage Lund and Rotem Sivan. In a similar way, it is this new release from the guitarist that showcases his writing and performing skills in a nicely rounded trio package. Matt Honer on drums and Simón Wilson on bass complete the threesome and together they perform eight original compositions, all of which are fairly short, yet concentrated and playful.

Light won second place in the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition and has performed with the likes of Donny McCaslin, Jason Palmer, Noah Preminger and Walter Smith III. “Herplusme” gives the guitarist an excellent platform to showcase his talents and with superb interaction and support from Honer and Wilson, the trio work intuitively well together, performing well and showing great promise throughout this recording.

The session is pretty much what one might expect to hear from a guitar-led contemporary jazz trio, and there are some lovely little touches and exquisite interplay highlighting the best elements of a trio at work. The opening track “Boy” shows an edgy originality to this trio that I really like, with its exploratory bass and drums the perfect accompaniment to Light’s inventive playing. The fiery “Overcooked” embraces an adventurous essence that spirals through different cycles of beat and tempo. The balled “Pumpkin Pie” is a slow-burner of a track that gradually draws the listener into its unexpected eloquence. The exploratory “Dog” highlights this trio at their most original, a driving force that confidently takes on the jazz idiom with a refreshing style and panache. I love the way that “Baby’s Hard Times” grows from birth to adulthood in the space of a few minutes, rising up with emotion and vulnerability. Whilst “The Things You” is a pretty straight-ahead jazz standard type piece, “Bagel” is anything but, with its wonderful bittersweet resonance. The final number “Dennisport” is a complex chordal piece reminiscent of a young Pat Metheny and finishes the album off in style.

“Herplusme” is well worth checking out, especially if you’re into your jazz guitar trios. I would expect there’s a lot more to come from Max Light, let’s hope so!

Mike Gates