Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra: Live at the Jazz Standard (2009)
It appears that the roles of each instrumentpiano, trumpet and voiceare both melodic and harmonic, that of the percussion is harmonic and rhythmic. Thus the whole concept of the Pocket Orchestra, as Hersch refers to his ensemble, is both valid and a vivid reality. Each instrument layers the music by draping sound-upon-sound in delicate muslin-like sheets so as to create a ululating, living, ever-changing wave of notes rising and falling like an ocean of sound. The addition of voice enables Hersch to enhance the mood and emotion of the music, when desired and almost at willespecially on pieces that have an otherwise rigid (and by definition) form.
The addition of voice to "Invitation to the Dance (Sarabande)," which is a formal baroque sarabande, enables Hersch to add an ethereal romance to the song. Thus is created a beautiful dancing number that, despite its slow pace, also at times harks back to the time of a melodie espagnole, that is in the tradition of Monteverdi and Corelli. He repeats the device in "Canzona," another delightful swinging, moving piece. "A Wish (Valentine)," which rounds out the record, is another spectacular vocal piece. Not surprisingly, both lyric elements have been created by Norma Winstone, the remarkable British vocalist, who excels in the company of pianist John Taylor and Canadian expat trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.
Contrast this with "Stuttering," an energetic rhythmic vehicle for piano, perhaps the exception rather than the norm of this record. And to prove it is so, the track is immediately followed by "Child's Song," a gorgeous melody that appears made for the soaring voice of Jo Lawry and the darting trumpet runs by Ralph Alessi that appears to disintegrate delightfully into a playful mirage of glimmering trumpet and piano and percussion before returning to the original melody again. "Free Flying," another vehicle for the vocalastics of Jo Lawry, captures the playful nature of the forma Brazilian loro complete with marching rhythms, harking back to an exquisite improvisation by Egberto Gismonti on his ZigZag (ECM, 1996). This record celebrates the relationship between voice and instrumental harmonics and percussion coloration, within the vast realm of the piano.
Track Listing: Stuttering; Child's Song; Song Without Words #4 Duet; Light Years; Down Home; Invitation to the Dance (Sarabande); Lee's Dream; Canzona: Free Flying; A Wish (Valentine).
Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano; Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Jo Lawry: voice; Richie Barshay: percussion.
Record Label: Sunnyside Records
Style: Modern Jazz