With this record pianist Fred Hersch leaves the friendly confines of his trio, expanding it to a quintet, and produces one of the edgiest releases of his career. Comprised of nine original compositions and a single standard ("And I Love Her"), The Fred Hersch Trio + 2 explores more deeply Hersch’s balladic writing and performing. Mr. Hersch seems most comfortable at mid-tempo as evidenced by the opening piece, "A Riddle Song." This same comfort extrapolates to "Miss B" and "Lee’s Dream," both of which boast complex post bop head arrangements and instructive soloing by Hersch, Ralph Alessi and Tony Malaby. The latter is a nice exercise in jazz contrapuntal empathy between Hersch and Malaby’s tight tenor.
Hersch’s aptitude for ballad playing is displayed on the single standard "And I Love Her" where the pianist injects a bit of abstraction in his playing. "A Lark" is a thoughtful consideration, highlighting Mr. Hersch’s exquisite touch and command as a bandleader. His ensemble supports him perfectly as he does his ensemble. Longtime associates bassist Drew Guess and drummer Nasheet Waits provide a pliable bedrock for the trio, on which guests Alessi and Malaby are allowed to stand.
Described as "robust" and "romantic," Mr. Hersch has created in the last number of years an airtight trio that acts as the vehicle for his carefully considered jazz vision. A ballad player par excellence, Mr. Hersch has distinguished himself as a Bill Evans-inspired pianist whose personal style is unique and intelligent. The Fred Hersch Trio + 2 represents the further artistic exploration characteristic of such a master.