Fred Hersch Trio: Alive At The Vanguard (2012)
Tradition is served well on this Fred Hersch Trio live recording from New York's Village Vanguard. The pianist's covers of the American songbook, like Cole Porter's "From This Moment On" and jazz classics such as Miles Davis' "Nardis" and Thelonious Monk's "Played Twice," animate and energize every moment of this club date.
Hersch, whose touring and output has been rejuvenated since he survived a two-month coma caused by complications of HIV, released two previous discsWhirl (Palmetto, 2010) (a trio session) and the solo effort, Alone At The Village Vanguard (Palmetto, 2011).
One of the marks of a true master is always his sidemen. Hersch's longstanding trio of Drew Gress and Nasheet Waits, last heard on Whirl, are replaced here with the strong rhythm section of bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. Like trading apples for apples, the bassist, drummer and Hersch are the definition of simpatico.
That feeling carries through the authentic Vanguard experience. Hersch's take on Sonny Rollins' 1957 date at the club includes the classic "Softly As A Morning Sunrise," played with a light dancing touch over McPherson's brushwork, and the piece increases in complexity without forsaking the melody. The trio also plays around with Rollins' "Doxy" by taking it at a much slower pace, its irony here is admirable. The same goes for his original ballad "Tristesse," written for the late Paul Motian, who was the monarch of the Vanguard during last ten years of his life. Hersch has a way of reinvesting in legends and their work, such as with Charlie Parker's "Segment" and his mash-up of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" and Davis' "Nardis." Hersch also created the tune "Sartorial" for Coleman, with the free jazz progenitor's leaps and gestures, and "Dream of Monk" portioned in Monk-speak.
The thrill of a live date at The Village Vanguard is to create something that stands tall next to all the history of the place, and Hersch certainly manages to accomplish that.
Track Listing: CD1: Havana; Tristesse; Segment; Lonely Woman/Nardis; Dream of Monk; Rising, Falling; Softly As In a Morning Sunrise; Doxy. CD2: Opener; I Fall in Love Too Easily; Jackalope; The Wind/Moon and Sand; Sartorial; From This Moment On; The Song is You/Played Twice.
Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano; John Hébert: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.