Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard (Palmetto, 2012)

The title Alive at the Vanguard refers to pianist Fred Hersch’s inspiring comeback from a series of serious health setbacks that had plagued him in recent years. The music on this two-disc album is very much alive as well, with Hersch accompanied by bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson. The set list is a well rounded mix of popular and jazz standards and original compositions flowing from the swinging to haunting ballad. “Havana” opens the album with a slight Latin tinge at a medium up-tempo. “Tristesse (for Paul Motian)” is a slower, emotional ballad, elegiac with a sound like a rainy day. Uptempo, brisk and jaunty, “Segment” develops a nice bass and drum pulse, setting the foundation for piano exploration. The music develops into an excellent fast trio performance. The medley of “Lonely Woman/Nardis” is particularly interesting with McPherson setting subtle ominous percussion before the famous Ornette Coleman melody is beautifully stated. Nervous drumming with subtle piano and bass accompaniment gives way to an extended bass solo before returning to the melodies after a long journey. The standard “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” has a gingerly played opening over brushes and bass as the probing trio delves deeply into their improvisation. They conclude the first set with Sonny Rollins composition “Doxy” which is rearranged and slowed down a little bit with Hersch even hinting at stride piano briefly before the trio moves into a fine medium-up improvisation. “Opener (For EMAC)” has a fresh sounding trio improvisation, using dynamic shifts within their playing and featuring a solid drum solo for McPherson. There is a soft solo opening on “I Fall In Love Too Easily” developing into a nice trio selection with subtle brushwork and bass. Hebert gets a excellent feature on this performance, moving through the open space of the ballad. “Jackalope” develops a very interesting rhythm with cascading piano and bass in an uptempo performance. The medley of “The Wind/Moon and Sand” has a delicate solo opening with bass and drums entering the track after about four and a half minutes. The group builds steam to a faster pace with ringing piano against bass and drums. Another medley “The Song Is You/Played Twice” ends the recording with the trio deftly entering the picture in a subdued nature, before there is a segue into deeper and more percussive piano, bass and drums. The music is very much alive and in the moment, and the mindfulness that the group uses shines through in each piece that they play, making for vital and exciting jazz. Alive at the Vanguard - amazon.com

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