Monday, August 09, 2004

Fred Hersch Trio + 2 (Palmetto, 2004)

This is Fred Hersch’s second album for the independent label Palmetto and his lush music seems ideally suited for them. Coming off the success of last years Live at the Village Vanguard, Hersch adds tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby and trumpeter Ralph Alessi to the rhythm team of Drew Gress and Nasheet Waits and heads into the studio. The horns add some wonderful accents to the music without breaking the mood of Hersch’s often romantic piano.

The romanticism of Hersch’s piano playing really shines through on the group’s cover of The Beatles “And I Love Her” which is well suited to a rich ballad interpretation. “Black Dogs Pays a Visit” changes things up as a bass heavy tune with a lot of soloing which slowly builds into a rhapsodic piano trio and then finally adds the horns dramatically to reach an improvisational crescendo. The horn solos throughout fit in well within the course of the music. Hersch’s music is normally trio related so you may think that the other instruments would be extraneous but this is not so, they are fully integrated into the band as Malaby’s solo on “Lee’s Dream” and Alessi’s beautifully stentorian playing on “A Riddle Song” aptly documents.

This is a very thoughtful and well played disc of modern jazz that both respects the past glories of the music and also looks unflinchingly into the present and the future. Here’s hoping that Palmetto provided Hersch with more opportunities to record with challenging and supportive musicians.

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