Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Fred Hersch - Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto Records, 2011)

According to the Palmetto Records web site, Fred Hersch was the first pianist ever invited to play solo at New York City's hallowed jazz club, The Village Vanguard. It was a fitting choice, Hersch's music encompasses the history of jazz, much of which passed through the Vanguard at one time or another. The music on this album, recorded in early December of last year is subtle, melodic and reflective piano, drawing on jazz, standards and originals for a varied and thoughtful program. He opens with a ballad, "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" which sets the tone for the album, with a soft and gentle reading of the song that conjures visions of damp city streets reflecting the cityscape in the moonlight. He shows the dynamism that his music is capable of by then moving onto a dedication to Bill Frisell entitled "Down Home." Here he uses Frisell's populist, folksy Americana to spin a sprightly improvisation. "Lee's Dream" is dedicated to another famous musician, Lee Konitz, and he weaves a knotty improvisation that recalls Konitz's unique approach to jazz. Two other great jazz innovators who left an enduring impression not only on the venue, but as jazz as a whole are celebrated with performances of Thelonious Monk's exciting composition "Work" and a reflective encore performance of Sonny Rollins' jazz standard "Doxy." This was a very successful disc and definitely a must for fans of patient melodic piano playing. There were no fireworks on display, just one man displaying his craft at a very high level. Alone at the Vanguard - amazon.com

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