Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard (2011)
Alone at the Vanguard is a stunning album that unravels from one gem of a song to another. It confirms the belief that Hersch is uniquely qualified to play solo. Like Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Don Pullen, Jaki Byard, Cecil Taylor and a handful of other pianists, Hersch holds sway from the get goin this case, from the time his fingers elicit playful responses during the first bars of "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." Hersch plays to no pattern. His mind is a hotbed of ideas and they flow like mountainous streams, gathering in force and muscularity as they tumble down the terrain of the song. After stating the terms of the melody in his own voice, Hersch is off on an adventurous gambol along the inner, secret garden of the song. He is apt to discover a topography of new and rapturous beauty. His masterful dedication to Lee Konitz, "Lee's Dream," unfolds like an ocean of imaginary beings that interact to sing a song of exceeding beauty. His version of Robert Schumann's "Pastorale" is a veritable journey of discoveryboth about its composer and his inspirationcomplete with awe-inspiring dramatic twists and turns.
Hersch has a fine sense of his place in the history of his art as well. Not only does he appear to owe a debt to late Romantics, such as Schumann, but he also finds himself following the great tradition of bebop including Thelonious Monk and late boppers such as Sonny Rollins. This is not only evident from his choice of repertoire for the date, but his examining of the deep-set rhythms as well as the emotions of that music. The pianist's "Echoes" swings and swaggers with the polyrhythms that characterized this creation of the high art of the Afro-American pantheon presided over by someone like Monk. Thus, Hersch is able to produce this solo work of remarkable beauty and relevance.
Track Listing: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; Down Home; Echoes; Lee's Dream; Pastorale; Doce de Coco; Memories of You; Work; Doxy.
Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano.
Record Label: Palmetto Records
Style: Modern Jazz