The intellectual and musical curiosity that inspires the work of pianist Fred Hersch is broad and deep. Validation of this is in his current release Breath By Breath which is informed by his early piano education and listening to string quartets, supported more recently by his advocacy of meditation as a way manage external factors beyond one's control.
In the liner notes, Hersch encourages listeners to take the time to attend the eight-movement "Sati Suite" in its entirety as a way to better understand the inspiration that meditation provides to Hersch's musical ideas. The first movement, appropriately entitled "Begin Again," emphasizes the process of renewal as Hersch and his cohorts bassist Drew Gress and drummer Jochen Rueckert lay down alternative melodies with the strings picking up the counterpoint. The title track demonstrates the working relationship between the trio and the strings as the latter lays out the structure of the piece, with Gress overlaying his strong, deep tone before Hersch enters with his exploration of the theme.
In his 2017 memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz , Hersch describes his approach to playing music : "I prefer not to plan what I am going to play too thoroughly.... I like to work spontaneously, in the moment." With this in mind, it is evident that this eight-movement section gives Hersch the freedom to search out the contours of the music, anchored by the meditative process that is foundational to his piano technique. Over the course of his career, whether in his solo performances, trios, or with his duo partners, Hersch has been amenable to draw the audience into the creative approach. This album is just one more step in that endeavour. The final track is "Pastorale," which Hersch presents as a homage to Robert Schumann, the mid 19th Century German composer and pianist who was considered one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. In this offering, the trio and strings work collaboratively to define the sonic path the piece takes, and seem to have developed the ideas organically. One might venture to presume that Schumann would nod in appreciation.
Begin Again; Awakened Heart; Breath By Breath; Monkey Mind; Rising Falling; Mara; Know
That You Are; Worldly Winds; Pastorale.