Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fred Hersch - Plays Jobim (Sunnyside, 2009)

After facing down some really scary health problems in 2008, pianist Fred Hersch has returned in grand style this year releasing two albums - a live little big band recording and this album, a solo piano album focusing on the music of Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Hersch keeps the music pared down and melodic, improvising on the familiar melodies well, while not making the music overly ornate. The uptempo performances were very enjoyable with "O Grande Amor" beginning at a mid-tempo and picking up energy to a long subtle and flowing improvisation. "Meditacaco" is fast and percussive, with strong piano playing shifting spritely and quick. "Brigas Nunca Mais" adds a little bit of subtle hand percussion to bouncing, thick piano making for a fun and enjoyable feel. On the ballad front, "Luiza" is taken at a gentle pace, slow and melodic, and "Insensatez" is deep and melancholy, with a touch of sadness throughout the emotional performance. The slow and spare medley of "Modinha/Olha Maria" is very tender sounding and the music is given space to breathe and move, like a gentle lullaby. This was an elegant and thoughtful album, piano aficionados will certainly find a lot to enjoy here. The music is very well recorded and the majestic sweep of Jobim's compositions and Hersch's piano technique come through clearly. He plays in an elegant and refined fashion that respects the compositions and melodies without sounding stuffy or ornamental.
Fred Hersch Plays Jobim -

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