CD REVIEW: Fred Hersch Trio - Sunday Night at the Vanguard



Fred Hersch Trio - Sunday Night at the Vanguard
(Palmetto Records. CD review by Mike Collins)


Fred Hersch’s photo is on the wall of the Village Vanguard these days. It’s recognition of both his stature in the jazz world and the strength of his association with the legendary club at which he’s been playing as a sideman and leader since the late 70s. This live release recorded there earlier this year, captures the trio of Hersch, bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson at the top of their collective game.

Running through the set is a deeply intuitive understanding between this long standing trio. Every idea pursued, each steady development and transformation of an atmosphere, all are collective efforts whoever is leading the way.

A Cockeyed Optimist opens the set, creeping in with a light as a feather vamp, Hébert finds the perfect pedal note so that the release is exquisite as the bass follows Hersch sliding into the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard’s melody. The device may be a nod at Bill Evans, but Hersch is not bound by any particular stylisic approach. His composition Serpentine, has an Ornette-ish theme that unfurls slowly over skittering cymbals before first Hersch then Hébert lead the trio through impressionistic explorations. The Optimum Thing, a more boppish, rhythmically angular melody over the changes of ‘The Best Thing for You’, provides a platform for a swinging workout that gradually accelerates until the theme returns at a blistering tempo. Calligram’s sparse fragmentary theme over an earthy bass line dissolves into a collective improvisation. Hersch’s arrangement of the Beatles’ For No One is a heart stopping ballad, giving full rein to his melodic invention and lyricism. Everyone’s Song But My Own gets an exuberant treatment with a polyrhythmic drive infusing Kenny Wheeler’s melancholy tinged theme with joyful almost celebratory air. The CD ends with Monk’s We see and the encore solo rendition of Hersch’s own Valentine, another reminder of the richness of his harmonic vocabulary.

Hersch is 60 now and this recording affirms that he’s continuing to be a formidable creative presence. If you aren’t able to pop down to the Vanguard to catch him and the trio in action, this recording is definitely the next best thing.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

LINK: Review of Fred Hersch solo in London in 2012
The launch gigs for this album are on Tuesday 16th August - Saturday21st. ... at the Village Vanguard

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