Pianist Fred Hersch
is celebrating his sixtieth birthday year in style, with a week of performances at the legendary Village Vanguard, his debuts at the Newport Jazz Festival and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the release of Fred Hersch Solo
. The achievement of surviving six decades is noteworthy, poignant and auspicious considering Hersch's near-communion with death in 2008, when he was placed in a medically-induced coma for 40 days as part of a fight against HIV-induced dementia. But Hersch survived, and has come back with an artistic zest, releasing since that medical crisis six excellent sets, in trio, duo or solo . Fred Hersch Solo
is as graceful and beautiful set as any he has done since his recovery, a post 2008 discography that begins with Fred Hersch Plays Jobim
(Palmetto, 2009), and rolls through to 2014's Floating
(Palmetto), and visits in between one of his finest trio outings, Whirl
(Palmetto, 2010). Fred Hersch Solo
is a set that puts the pianist's technical expertise front and center. His is an approach rich in emotion, with a nimble delicacy of touch. The set opens with a floating medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Olha Maria" and "O Grand Amour," a Brazilian journey that drifts in the beginning then gains strength and sense of urgency. Hersch takes the familiar "Caravan" into quirky and unfamiliar territory, and lays down a gorgeously stately homage to Robert Schumann on "Pastorale." Thelonious Monk
's "In Walked Bud" is an ebullient romp, and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" sounds as if it drifted up out of a prayer book.
The "sound" of the music, recorded in a Catskills church, is warm and resonant, with a reverential tint, and Hersch, with now ten solo recordings in his discography, is in splendid form. Another jewel of a post-coma recording Fred Hersch.
Olha Maria/O Grande Amor; Caravan; Pastorale (For Robert Schumann); Whirl (For
Suzanne Farrell); The Song Is You; In Walked
Bud; Both Sides Now.