It makes sense that experimental guitar hero and studio whiz David Torn would be involved to whatever extent on guitarist Harvey Valdes (Butch Morris, Sean Sonderegger's Magically Inclined) debut solo album. Torn mastered this studio session and the parallel here is that both guitarists tend to rip boundaries to shreds. Here, Valdes and violinist Sana Nagano most assuredly delve into PointCounterPoint jaunts, cloaked within an off-centered rumination of progressive metal, jazz rock, jazz improvisation and invigorating journeys, structured on ferocious interplay and mounting tension. Valdes whips his guitar into submission as drummer Joe Hertenstein lays out the heavy-handed grooves as the band also intersperses complex, odd-metered unison choruses into the mix. For example, on "Shuffle," Nagano's somewhat dour opening passages are contrasted by the guitarist's lower register notes, including his bass parts. On that note, that lack of a bassist opens up the soundstage when also considering the leader's slaughtering distortion-laced chord voicings, special effects and blistering leads. Here, the drummer's weighty rock pulse segues the trio into a loping gait with Nagano's flourishing movements and Valdes flickering lines and grunge-style licks. It's a true cosmic breakdown—no doubt about it. Many of these works project haunting buildups with full-fledged sonic assaults via the artists' highly active roles throughout the production. There are sparks flying all over the place, but this is by no means a free-form sonic blowout, as Valdes' pieces are framed on tangible rhythms and disparate motifs. But the guitarist's hammering and torrid phraseology amid the violinist's angular and streaming sojourns are occasionally offset on "Postural," which is crafted on a fractured and pleasantly neurotic tempo, marked by Valdes' fiercely ascending jaunts, elephantine clusters and Hertenstein's slapping drums and cymbals hits. Taken as a whole, the musicians' killer riffing and tightly woven ensemble work tenders the best of many unusual musical worlds, and for selfish reasons, the sooner Valdes gets back into the studio the better.” - Glenn Astarita

All About Jazz

Abstract, heavy-hitting, and certainly edgy, NYC based guitarist Harvey Valdes leads a power trio via his 7-string guitar, with assured assistance from violinist Sana Nagano, and drummer Joe Hertenstein. The music is dense at times, and often sounding very precise, yet still feeling naturally flowing as the trio bends the musical logic into melodic mazes. The album is a world apart from the lush solo work of Valdes' least release, Roundabout. In fact, it feels akin to the compositions of Tim Berne, with whom the album shares a cover artist (a striking cover by artist Steve Byram).  Stacatto phrases from the violin twist around the angular guitar's melodies, running point and counterpoint with the tasty crunch. Valdes' potent mix of powerful playing is counterbalanced by the lithe work of the Nagano, which helps to keep the math-rock demons at bay.The solid brushwork of Hertenstein, keeps everyone in check. Suffice to say, by the time you make it through the twists and turns of the album, you may not realize how you got there, but you’ll probably want to take the ride again.” - Paul Acquaro

The Free Jazz Collective

Harvey Valdes takes a different approach altogether. While Roundabout finds him interpreting nine familiar standards, he often disguises the songs altogether. He reharmonizes many of the chords, only hinting in brief spots at the melodies on some of the numbers and mostly plays out of tempo. Thoroughly reinventing most of the pieces, he displays a fresh harmonic conception while performing at a quiet volume. It is as if one is hearing the guitarist think aloud, taking his time going from destination to destination. His thoughtful improvisations are consistently intriguing, giving listeners a completely different look at some of these songs. Certainly these renditions of “All The Things You Are”, “Blue In Green” (taken very slowly), “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “I’ll Remember April” are unlike any previous recordings. To enjoy Roundabout, listeners should put away their preconceptions of what these standards will sound like and simply savor these unique versions. ” - Scott Yanow

— New York City Jazz Record

Guitarist Harvey Valdes forms a rock-styled power trio with Sana Nagano/violin and Joe Hertenstein/dr on this 7 song collection. The hard hitting drums make the album more akin to a mix of heavy metal as on “Coil” and “Blackjack” while Nagano’s intricate violin work delivers hints of early 70s King Crimson as on the prismatic “25 Bars” and melancholy “Untitled 21” Valdes’ uses his guitar for solo and for delivering bass like riffs to keep the foundation strong, hitting hard on “Shuffle” and “Postural.” Complex and angular, the music is filled with rock-inspired grey matter.” - George W. Harris

Jazz Weekly

RetroChicken Tzvi Gluckin
Guitarist Harvey Valdes brings to us a vibrantly iconoclastic trio outing on PointCounterPoint (self-released). The unusual and well articulated instrumentation is Harvey on electric guitar, Sana Nagana on violin and Joe Hertenstein on drums. Each contributes much to the totality, which is a sort of avant jazz rock with pronounced rhythmic presence and odd or shifting meters that are foregrounded by Joe's definitive drumming. The melodic interplay between Harvey and Sana is most unusual, modern in its chromatic expansiveness, ever-shifting and evolving with the two melodic lines intertwining and allowing space for soloistic improv flourishes. It follows very original post-fusion advanced form with remarkable consistency and some highly unusual ways that unwind with excellence and give Harvey the chance to show a special solo weight both unusual and with an undeniable logic and brilliance. But then Sana is in there too with counterlines of real worth. It is the kind of music that states its own case, not bending to an assimilation of the typical, but holding its own in exciting ways. It is of considerable interest from a compositional standpoint but also gives us some wonderful guitar, violin and drum work in the process. It is something you must check out if you want something new and very out-of-the-ordinary. Oh, no, I do not exaggerate. This is beautifully new!! Highly recommended. ” - Grego Applegate Edwards

Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog

Recently I read Derek Bailey’s book Improvisation, and one of the things he discussed was idiomatic improvisation, which is improvisation within an established style such as jazz or Northern Indian classical music or baroque music. This is contrasted with non-idiomatic improvisation, which is not bound by such factors or traditions. The use of the term “free improvisation,” while technically accurate, comes with so much baggage that it’s more hindrance than help in trying to describe music. I bring this up not because PointCounterPoint is completely improvised — it’s not, and in fact has some great compositions — but because while the music would probably broadly be categorized as jazz, when the players do improvise, it is not really idiomatic of jazz improvisation as it’s generally known. Which is all to basically say it’s not traceable to the blues, to get down to the root. Of course, over the last several decades, there has developed a lot of jazz that’s pretty far removed from the blues. The trio consists of Harvey Valdes on electric guitar, Sana Nagano on violin, and Joe Hertenstein on drums, and the complex, angular compositions call to mind such things as Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, Present, Bartok’s chamber music, and complex math-rock. Another reference that comes to mind is Korekyojinn, though with less emphasis on the heavy end of the spectrum. Valdes favors tones with a fair amount of distortion and other effects, and plays a seven-string guitar, so the lack of a dedicated bass instrument is not detrimental to the impact of the music. In contrast to Valdes, Nagano plays it straight tone-wise, using an acoustic instrument without (as far as I can tell) any effects. Her playing is plenty impressive without any enhancements, however; she dives into the off-kilter nearly atonal melodies with abandon, and her solos adopt the same esthetic, giving the pieces great coherence, almost as if the solos had been composed as well. Hertenstein does an amazing job of keeping the energy level high in spite of the erratic rhythms, working with equal parts recognizable patterns and “melodic” lines that match the accents of the other two. Harvey Valdes is a talent to be reckoned with, both as a composer and a guitarist, and this trio is a fascinating creative voice in modern music. ” - Jon Davis


I like the title of this record that plays with the meaning of counterpoint, a cd made by the trio Harvey Valdes (Guitar / Compositions), Sana Nagano (Violin) and Joe Hertenstein (Drums) that seems to bring back to light the concept of power trio. A record that seems the result of a continuous series of different stylistic hybrids of jazz, metal, distorted sounds, atonal, counterpoint and rhythmic deviations. Solutions not so unusual for Harvey Valdes that already with his first record Roundabout, in 2015, had impressed us with his particular musical melange, the result of his diverse interests and his many musical influences. The particular use of Sana Nagato’s violin adds hot spices, creating an interesting amalgam with Valdes’s guitar that often prefers to give the main role to the violin, leaving for himself the crucial role of creating a harmonic and melodic basis for dialogue with the drums of Joe Hertenstein. The seven tracks on the disc easily bring me to remember that peculiar taste of Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin, Jean Luc Ponty, Hot Tuna, Uzeb and Didier Lockwood, but here we are far from fusion and jazz rock of the past. Music recorded on this PointCounterPoint denotes a more aggressive, more frequent and interesting use of polyrhythms and syncopated rhythms, great energy and the intensive use of distorted and atonal sounds that exchange and blend between violin and guitar. ” - Andrea Aguzzi


Guitarist Harvey Valdes has a background that speaks to blending influences. He’s likely to name check Napalm Death as an early influence, and his origins run through thrash and death metal, with a little punk and post-punk filter. Then he turned to studying jazz, and the melodic and harmonic interests he picked up academically distinguish his compositions. So if he joined up with an experimental violinist for PointCounterPoint, his debut album as a leader, it might make sense if we got a smattering of genres across the release. We do, to an extent, but it’s more interesting than just that.  The trio mainly focuses on improvisational jazz (and drummer Joe Hertenstein sounds more comfortable in a jazz studio than in a metal club), although Valdes’ sense of tone draws from his rock background. There’s little sense of jazz-rock or fusion here, even when tracks like “Untitled 21” yearn toward a metallic break out. Instead, the musicians focus on their interplay.  Valdes plays a seven-string guitar, and he uses the extra low tones to frequently shift his role to that of the bass, letting violinist Sana Nagano take the lead part. Part of what makes the album so surprising, though, is the way the two musicians seem so switch roles on the fly. On the aptly named “Shuffle,” Nagano sets up a groove as much as a loose melody, with Valdes playing a bass line that’s as interested in harmonics as in blues funk. By the midpoint of the song, however, Valdes’ bassline interacts more explicitly with Nagano’s line, allowing it to shift into the role of lead guitar. The metal tone creates divergence in the track, even as Valdes builds on the songwriting that came before.  At other times, Nagano shifts to something almost like a rhythmic role, but she’s always conscious of how to fit into Valdes’ sometimes heavy and sometimes skittery playing. The interaction between the two is the real treat of the album. The pair switch roles effortlessly, with no loss of attentiveness in whatever position they end up in. That fluidity allows Valdes’ to work almost as if he were writing for a guitar-bass-piano lineup in which only two of the three can play at any given time.  Of course, eventually the metal has to come out, and the album closes with “Blackjack”, a cut in which Nagano deals like a rock vet and sets up Valdes with a place to turn loose. Joe Hertenstein keeps his playing precise, which aids the other two, even though it would be nice to see him stretch himself more — the drums are more predictable than anything else on the album (here, reliability may be overrated). This track spends much of its time in noise before finally falling into the sort of chordal riffing that crosses from jazz back into metal. With a stutteringly melodic violin on top.  Justin Cober-Lake” - Justin Cober-Lake

Dusted Magazine

The boldness of the Harvey Valdes Trio should be applauded. There is no shortage of identikit contemporary guitar trios where music meets noise and silence, which present an anaemic, straight-laced portrait of this idiosyncratic music. At first blush, Harvey Valdes new trio disc is no different. He obeys the legal requirements to include distortion and acoustic feedback, with violinist Sana Nagano using dissonant melodic lines and wild double stops while drummer Joe Hertenstein cuts loose with irregular tempos throwing in noise as additional indemnity. The performances, though, challenge the safe conformity, the curious predictability that smooths the edges in so many contemporary recitals. Where the melody in ‘Shuffle’ or ’25 Bars’ says it should be loud, it is loud. Nothing should be startling about this recording except the raw and inventive contrapuntal elements in the melodies of each song. Harvey Valdes and Nagano, especially refuse to temper these moments with anything that is safe. There is an improvisatory, mercurial air about much of the playing that is truly refreshing. This is especially so in works such as ‘Postural’ and ‘Blackjack’ that do more than merely conjure the ghost of Jimi Hendrix in the voice of Valdes. The trio’s music is not for the faint-hearted. Sudden jolts in dynamic tempo can hurt the unsuspecting ear. However, in these spirited performances we hear music that effectively illuminates guitar, violin and drumset. There’s no disguising the music’s considerable technical demands. Nor does the playful counterpoint between guitar and violin ever lose its effervescence and luminosity.” - Raul da Gama


There is a vast underground of improvisers known and little known in the ever-mutating Downtown scene. Thanks to our weekly free music series at DMG, I have met dozens (hundreds?) of musicians both locally as well as from around the world. Mr. Valdes has played here at DMG in a trio with Blaise Siwula & GL Diana as well as playing with Sean Sonderegger (recent CD on Skirl). Sana Nagano has also played at DMG with Jeff Shurdut and is a member of Karl Berger's Creative Music Orchestra. Joe Hertenstein is an immensely busy drummer who has recorded with HNH (with Thomas Heberer & Pascal Niggenkemper) as well as with Jon Irabagon, Mikko Innanen and the Core Trio with Thomas Helton & Matt Shipp. Right from the gitgo, this trio is off and running. This is a solid power trio, tight and invigorating. All of the songs are written by Mr. Valdes, hence this is not just another improv date. Both Valdes' guitar and Ms. Nagano's violin are amplified and wailing, playing tight crisscrossing lines together. This is jazz/rock at its best! Mr. Hertenstein sets up a sly, slow boogie groove on "Shuffle", but Ms. Nagano and Mr. Valdes take intense, in-your-face, raunchy solos. This is sort of a garage version of Mahavishnu Orchestra. I've seen/heard Mr. Hertenstein live on numerous occasions but here he sounds much different as he pounds those tubs with furious finesse. I really dig the way Mr. Valdes writes those complex, interlocked lines for the guitar and violin to play together with the drums providing that powerful propulsive force. Ms. Nagano, who I've heard acoustic violin on several occasions, stands out on her amplified violin here, taking a number of inspired solos, showing that she is a force to be reckoned with. Since there is no bassist here, Mr. Valdes often plays some of the bass lines on his guitar. There are a few pieces where the violin & drums play their lines together while the guitar adds sonic spice or takes another hot solo. A couple of these songs have that herky-jerky, harmelodic groove going on which is no easy feat. This trio often sound as if they are closer to hard-rock than jazz, yet they remain tight, spirited and pummeling none-the-less. - Bruce Lee Gallanter ” - Bruce Lee Gallanter

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