126

Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
The beauty of subtle emotion and the glacial calm of Fred Hersch's pianism are so arresting and so captivating that it virtually stops the breath. His mastery of the instrument, coupled with a deep and soulful connection with the joy of music gives Hersch the unique power to both entertain as well as heal the mind with utmost spirituality. This is so rare a phenomenon among musicians that only a handful of them in recent times—perhaps John Coltrane and Bobby McFerrin—may have succeeded in connecting the dots between body and soul. The spiritualism of his playing apart, Hersch has flawless technique and expresses himself with nuanced brilliance, unfurling strings of phrases and musical sentences like bejeweled artifacts that come alive at his fingertips, seductively swirling around the room.

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 go—in 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 discovery—both about its composer and his inspiration—complete 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 (dedicated to Bill Frisell); Echoes; Lee's Dream (Dedicated to Lee Konitz); Pastorale (Dedicated to Robert Schumann); Doco de Coco; Memories Of You; Work; Doxy.

Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano.

Title: Alone at the Vanguard | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Palmetto Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jazz Flute Traditions CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Flute Traditions
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Nerve Dance CD/LP/Track Review Nerve Dance
by John Sharpe
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "My Head is Listening" CD/LP/Track Review My Head is Listening
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 2, 2017
Read "E.S.T. Symphony" CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Reflections" CD/LP/Track Review Reflections
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 25, 2017
Read "Together, As One" CD/LP/Track Review Together, As One
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Pomona" CD/LP/Track Review Pomona
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 16, 2016
Read "Prog Noir" CD/LP/Track Review Prog Noir
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 3, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.