(Palmetto Records PM2159. CD Review by Chris Parker – and UK October Solo Tour Dates)
‘This may be my best trio playing on record, in terms of range, sound, being in the moment, and the way we [Fred Hersch piano, John Hébert bass and Eric McPherson drums] play together … very strong, focused playing’ is Hersch’s own assessment of this, a double CD culled from live performances at New York’s Village Vanguard, 7–12 February 2012.
Listeners will find it hard to disagree: given a sympathetic rhythm section (and Hébert and McPherson built up their extraordinary rapport playing with another great pianist, Andrew Hill), Hersch is simply one of the most resourceful, sensitive and versatile jazz pianists on the planet, and Alive at the Vanguard, in which he moves seamlessly between imaginative reinventions of standards (‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’, ‘Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise’, ‘From This Moment On’/‘The Song Is You’); sparky, vibrant visits to jazz classics (a particular highlight his pairing of Ornette Coleman’s ‘Lonely Woman’ with Miles Davis’s ‘Nardis’); and supremely jazz-literate originals (nodding to Paul Motian, Thelonious Monk et al.), allows him to showcase the impressive range and depth of his extraordinary talent.
‘Jazz-literate’ is perhaps the crucial factor here: the first CD ends, for example, with a celebration of Sonny Rollins, via a vigorous working over of one of the tenor player’s favourite live vehicles, the aforementioned ‘Softly …’, followed by a delicious examination of one of his most celebrated originals, ‘Doxy’; the second with a witty musical joke in which Hersch plays (once) Monk’s ‘Played Twice’.
The pianist himself sums up the two hours’ music contained in this compelling album thus: ‘When a trio is right it’s very strong, but also very fragile. If it’s right it’s transcendent, and if anything is off, the whole thing crumbles. John and Eric are both incredibly alert. I don’t feel like there’s any ago. We’re all trying to serve the music as it unfolds.’
FRED HERSCH – SOLO PIANO – NINE UK TOUR DATES OCTOBER 2012
2nd – LONDON, Purcell Room, Southbank Centre. 7.45pm. £20
3rd – BURY ST EDMUNDS, The Apex. 8.00pm. £16
4th – BRISTOL, St Georges Bristol. 8.00pm. £21
5th – SOUTHAMPTON, Turner Sims. 8.00pm. £18
7th – MUCH WENLOCK, The Edge Arts Centre. 8.00pm £16, £14
9th – LEEDS, The Venue, Leeds College of Music. 7.30pm £15
10th – MANCHESTER, Royal Northern College of Music. 7.30pm. £17, £14
11th – OXFORD, Church of St John the Evangelist. 8.00pm. £18.00
12th – EDINBURGH, Queen’s Hall. 8.00pm. £18, £16.50