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Thirteen Ways: Focus

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For an artist the process of abstracting an idea reveals the genius of his/her work. Picasso would begin with the reality of say, a bull. He would draw it many ways, each time paring away the unnecessary elements until he had captured the essence of the bull. He said this simplifying leaves merely the idea of the object, which stirs the emotions of a viewer. Mathematicians and poets evoke the same procedure, leaving what many would say; “I could do that.” Sure you can mimic the final product, but the genius is in the process of abstraction. It’s no different for musicians. Think of the simplicity and intellect of a Thelonious Monk song.

The trio Thirteen Ways creates music from the same abstracting process. They distill thoughts and emotions through improvisation and planned interplay. The bass-less trio of pianist Fred Hersch, saxophonist and clarinetist Michael Moore, and drummer/percussionist Gerry Hemingway immediately bring to mind Moore’s now defunct band Clusone Trio. Moore’s teammates, Han Bennink (percussion) and Ernst Reijseger (cello), played almost free association music. Clusone Trio were favorites in Europe where the ex-patriot Moore and the band was based. Like Moore, drummer Gerry Hemingway has spent considerable time in Europe, and working as drummer for the likes of pianists Anthony Braxton and Marilyn Crispell. Fred Hersch and Michael Moore go back to their days at Boston’s New England Conservatory where they studied under Gunther Schuller and Jaki Byard. Hersch who was the pianist of choice for many jazz singers including Janis Siegel, Meredith D’Ambrosio, and leaders such as Gary Burton and Toots Thielmans, has stepped out on his own releasing much admired songbook tributes to Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk, and Rogers & Hammerstein.

The music, while a jazz abstracting, is anything but the colloquial putdown “abstract.” They draw from popular music, quoting bop lines and Latin music with semi-classical chamber music. Their emotion ranges from melancholy to wacky, but note the over-the-top wackiness of Clusone 3. For the ex-patriot and the New Yorker, this is an American music. Taken from the melting pot of Gershwin, Monk, and Copeland, Thirteen Ways has extricated the bare essence of our thing, a jazz thing.

Track List:Focus; Janeology; Out Someplace (Blues For Mathew Shepard); Autumn Eyes; En Tee; Tango Bittersweet; Bug Music; Fim de Inverno; Identity; One Note To My Wife; Habanera.

Personnel: Fred Hersch

Record Label: Palmetto Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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