Meet Steve Herberman
If you don’t know who Steve Herberman is, but the name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it on the Baroque Improvisation video posted on one of the various Ted Greene sites. Steve made the video during one of his lessons and so generously shared this invaluable knowledge with everyone.
Like Ted, Steve is a lover of all things contrapuntal. And besides a performing career mostly in the northeast US, for now, he’s interested in teaching with a specialty in contrapuntal fingerstyle improvisation. His video classes, so far 30 seperate classes with written accompanying material, range in subjects from single note improvisation through contrapuntal improv techniques and arranging in the multi-line style of George Van Eps and Ted Greene.
Steve is an amazing guitarist and teacher definitely worthy of your attention.
Hence, meet Steve Herberman:
Steve Herberman By Bart Stringham
Living just outside of Washington DC in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Steve Herberman is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and has been teaching at Towson University near Baltimore since 1999 as an adjunct faculty member. Steve’s instructional material has been featured in Just Jazz Guitar, Downbeat, Mel Bay’s Guitar Sessions, and in a monthly column for the online publication Modern Guitars. Steve has also taught numerous master classes for the online site http://www.mikesmasterclasses.com. He has performed at venues such as Birdland in NYC, Spazio in Los Angeles, the NAMM shows in Anaheim and Nashville, Blues Alley, The Smithsonian Jazz Cafe, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Steve performed at the First World Guitar Congress in Baltimore and moderated symposiums with panelists and guitarists Howard Alden, Jimmy Bruno, Jim Hall, Eric Johnson, Pat Martino, John Scofield, Martin Taylor, and Ralph Towner. Steve’s third CD Ideals has just been released and I caught up with him to talk about it, his career and jazz guitar in general.
Steve Herberman has recorded three CDs as a leader; Thoughtlines (2001) Action:Reaction (2006) and Ideals (2008.) His recordings have received wide critical acclaim in JazzTimes, Downbeat, Jazz Improv and many others. Steve’s recent CD, Ideals, reached the Top 10 on the JazzWeek chart for national airplay remaining on the chart for 16 weeks. Action:Reaction, a CD of Steve’s original music, was chosen as one of the top 50 CD’s of 2007 by Jazz Improv magazine.
BS: Tell me how you got started on guitar and a few early experiences that brought you to where you are now.
SH: I got my first guitar, a Yamaha nylon-string, when I was 12 years old, and played that a lot for several months before convincing my parents to get me an electric guitar. The great thing was that my parents allowed me to take lessons right away and the instructor used to talk a lot about jazz and Berklee, and sort of steered me into that whole thing. So I had my mind made up in 9th grade that I’d go to Berklee and study jazz. Lucky for me, my school library subscribed to Guitar Player magazine and had all of the back issues, which was really incredible for me at that age. I read all about George Van Eps, Wes Montgomery, Lenny Breau and Ted Greene, in addition to all of the other players in other styles. I also began collecting records and transcribing. Back then we had two jazz radio stations in the area that played some great music and exposed me to the history of jazz, which I was really becoming quite enamored with. I read all of the jazz biographies and magazines I could get my hands on. Hearing the Great Guitars with Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis and Charlie Byrd at Charlie’s club in Georgetown was very important to me, and I never missed a chance to hear that group. I worked with Chuck Redd just last night, whom I used to see perform in the Great Guitars when I was in high school. Hope Chuck doesn’t see this…
BS: He might….his son Charlie is a guitarist. Speaking of Ted Greene, I understand you either played or studied with him. What was that like?
SH: I took two lessons with Ted back in 1996 a couple of months apart. I would have been there every week if it wasn’t 3000 miles away (laughter). It was an amazing experience for me. I learned a lot in those 3 hours – gaining access to his encyclopedic knowledge of music and extreme generosity. You could ask him questions while he was playing some very intricate counterpoint and he’d answer without stopping! What was equally important was that Ted was very supportive of what I was setting out to do with my playing style. I figured if Ted Greene said I was going to do something with my music and with my way of playing, than maybe it’s true. It really gave me confidence, which I lacked at that time. Discussing Lenny Breau and George Van Eps with Ted was terrific because he was so insightful as to what their contributions were. He played with both of them and was of course a student of Van Eps. In fact, he tried to get me a lesson with him. Though it never worked out, Ted called John Pisano on my behalf to try to convince George to agree to teach a one-of lesson while I was in town. Later on, John Pisano would become a good friend, musical partner and mentor.
I encourage you to follow these links and make a wonderful discovery:
The video lessons Steve produced are on his website and also on the Mikes Masterclasses website: http://www.facebook.com/l/57a66rYuUMBxIXa7pbqlmVuyhfw/www.mikesmasterclasses.com
Steve’s written tribute to Ted:
Ted Greene left this world all too soon last week. I still can’t believe he’s gone. Knowing that he was there in his Encino apartment all day teaching his many students was a comforting feeling. Most things in the world change so abruptly but there was Ted doing what he loved and weren’t we all the better for it! Dropping into town for a few days one may have been fortunate enough to get a lesson slot and leave with new confidence and insight. He was the ultimate coach in that he made a person feel good about themselves while at the same time letting the student know their weaknesses and ways to improve. After a visit with Ted everything seemed in better focus.
I only took two lessons with Ted back in 1996 spending a total of about five hours with him. I felt an immediate rapport and he put me at ease right away. I had listened carefully to his Solo Guitar record and studied his books so I had good reason to be a little nervous! The details of that first meeting with Ted are still crystal clear.
Looking for his name at the front gate of the apartment complex I quickly found a Theodore Greene and he buzzed me in. I walked past a room for rent sign and thought how great it would be to live that close to him. I’ve always lived on the east coast and this was my first trip to California. He greeted me at the door and apologized that his previous lesson was running over so I took a seat in his front room. There before me was stacks upon stacks of books, magazines and records. On the top of one stack was a Time magazine from the mid 60’s. Looking around I saw many things from that vintage or earlier. Having seen his method books and some of his lesson sheets given to me by friends I knew he was thorough and perhaps a little obsessive. A teenage girl walked out of Ted’s studio with a few tattoos and piercings holding a Jackson guitar with a wammy bar. Here was a man on the highest musical level and he was giving guitar lessons to a local high school rocker. This was my first clue that Ted was open minded and very generous.
Ted asked me to plug into a nice old Ampeg while he went into the kitchen to grab a quick snack. I noodled around for a minute and I heard Ted exclaim from around the corner “a seven string!” He walked in the room saying “ I was listening to you play in the middle register of your guitar and you waited a while before you hit the 7th string but then you were on it and I said, this man has seven strings!” He was very enthusiastic and the fun was only beginning. Next he surprised me by suggesting a meeting with Van Eps. In fact he said, “George must hear you.” I thought I was dreaming. Ted hadn’t spoken to Van Eps in a couple of years so he told me he’d call John Pisano and ask John to call George to try to persuade him to give me a lesson while I was in town. I was due back in LA in a couple of months so I was excited by the thought of meeting the great George Van Eps either this trip or next. As it turned out Ted did call John and left me a message. My guitar friend who I was staying with told me to never erase the message! For Ted to go that trouble for a guy he barely knew speaks volumes of his generosity.
Back to my lesson, once the topic turned to John Pisano Ted got very enthused. “Have you seen John’s hands? They’re huge you know, like basketball time!”
I learned later from John that he would take lessons from Ted but Mr. Greene never bragged about that. In fact his humble nature didn’t match up with the incredible music that came pouring out of his de-tuned Tele. I heard everything from classical, gospel, jazz, and R&B in Ted’s amazing improvisations.
We covered a lot of ground in those two lessons. The second lesson was narrowed down, by my choosing, to discuss his improvised classical style. Gospel invariably made its way in, as did a healthy dose of jazz and blues. I was amazed that Ted could talk to me while he improvised. He encouraged me to ask him what he was thinking whenever I heard something I liked. Well as we all know I’d be doing a lot of talking! I was bowled over by what Ted was playing, it went far beyond what was on his record, which I thought was unsurpassable. He spoke in reverent tones about Van Eps, Wes Montgomery, Lenny Breau, Danny Gatton and so many others but Ted was playing on that level and was doing things I’ve never heard improvised on the guitar. I asked him some questions about his solo guitar album and he told me that much of it was arranged but he felt that he could now almost improvise it.
I’ve run into some great players influenced by Ted. John Pisano is one of his biggest fans. A couple of years ago Ben Monder brought up Ted Greene’s name and mentioned that he’d like to meet him and get some lessons. Even though Ben’s playing is on the very highest level he said that he’s learned a lot of things from Chord Chemistry. Lenny Breau was a huge fan and the list is a mile long!
Ted never got the recognition he deserved. He was the furthest thing from a self-promoter and by choice he decided to devote his life to teaching others. He’s a hero to me and hundreds (maybe thousands) of other musicians. His tireless pursuit of knowledge was reminiscent of John Coltrane’s. Ted was a reflection of the world’s beauty. His life’s work will surely not be in vain. It’s already evident that there will be much interaction between the many people touched by Ted. The bar has been raised and Ted would have liked nothing better than to see it go up even higher.
My condolences go out to all of Ted’s loved ones, friends and fans. May he rest in peace and finally get to meet all of his heroes from Bach to Montgomery.