Fred Hersch: Plays Jobim (2009)
Attempting a tribute to someone like Jobim is like taking off for the moon. A composer, arranger, singer, guitarist and pianist, and 20th century cultural phenomenon who sits in a heavenly place with the likes of Duke Ellingtonand more, with Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravelhe's been virtually canonized. Not only does Hersch bring a certain reverence to his program in praise of Jobim, but he does so on a perfectly prepared piano all by himself. He pierces the heart of every Jobim melody and proceeds to bring each song's emotional essence to fruition. Moreover, Hersch's pianism is so harmonically rich that Jobim's songs become Hersch's by some magical inside out harmony. And then, with an ingenious understanding of the seemingly limitless rhythmic possibilities of the strings and ebony and ivory, and also mastery of dynamics, Hersch has made any other rhythmic accompaniment a non-issue. Except, that is, for the amazing track he shares with Haddad.
The program itself is a tricky one. How to compress Jobim into nine tracks and still do justice to the project? Hersch opts to bring a selection of familiar charts, such as "O Grande Amor," Meditacao," "Insensatez, "Desafinado" and "Corcovado," which the master himself played time and time again in various settings, treating these charts respectfully, but reserving his most adventurous improvisations for the "old familiars." "Desafinado" is masterfully deconstructed and remade afresh, while on lesser-known tunes such as the brooding "Luiza" and "Pos Toda Minha Vida," the pianist becomes almost spookily like a doppelganger of Jobim and Sinatra, making harmonic leaps but barely above a whisper at times.
The record is magical. Fred Hersch has been rather active of late. Only Hersch's brilliant oratorio, Leaves of Grass (Palmetto, 2005), comes close. This is unbridled genius, unabashedly displayed.
Track Listing: Por Toda Minha Vida; O Grande Amor; Luiza; Meditacao; Insensatez; Brigas Nunca Mais; Modinha/Olha Maria; Desafinado; Corcovado.
Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano; Jamey Haddad: percussion (6).
Record Label: Sunnyside Records
Style: Modern Jazz