Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

483

Fred Hersch: Fred Hersch: Whirl

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Fred Hersch
Whirl
Palmetto Records
2010

Many of the greatest jazz musicians have refused to let physical setbacks derail their artistic journey. When Les Paul discovered his broken arm would be permanently set in one position, he made sure it was at a proper angle for guitar playing. Guitarist Pat Martino suffered a brain aneurysm and had to relearn to play the guitar—and rediscover his very being. Pianist Fred Hersch can now be added to this list.



In late 2008, Hersch fell into a coma that lasted two months, could not swallow—or eat or drink—for eight months and suffered a variety of other AIDS-related ailments (i.e. renal failure) as his body was, essentially, shutting down. Medical care, sheer determination and the miraculous spirit of the human body eventually helped Hersch battle back but, as David Hadju noted in an article for the New York Times Magazine, "he lost nearly all motor function in his hands and could not hold a pencil, let alone play the piano." While it would be easy for many people, given the same circumstances, to give up, Fred Hersch is not most people. One of the most artistically driven forces in jazz and one of the most influential pianists of his generation, Hersch buckled down, focused intensely on rehabilitation and brought himself back into the fold.

Whirl is the first recording Hersch has made after his recovery and, while still retaining the key components of his sound and style, a looser and more organic feel seems to surround some of this music. The effortless, relaxed swing of "You're My Everything" begins the album. Drummer Eric McPherson's light touch and constant movement help to gently move this piece along while bassist John Hebert's playing is highly complementary to Hersch's ideas. McPherson is the rare musician who often paints non-stop ideas, yet manages to blend into the bigger picture and add all the right touches. Hersch's "Snow Is Falling..." is a wonderful example of his Midas touch on the piano. Few whose fingers grace the 88s can even come close to getting the sound that Hersch charms out of a piano. The airy ambience endemic to Paul Motian's work is apparent in Hersch's moody and intriguing take on the drummer's "Blue Midnight." Hebert and McPherson help a great deal in painting this beautifully hazy picture.

"Skipping" is one of the hippest pieces on this album and the title—perhaps referencing the mixed meters or simply the act of skipping—perfectly reflects the fun and jaunty feel. "Mandevilla," self described by Hersch as a habanera that's "named after a Brazilian jasmine vine," gives Hebert a chance to step out front for a bit and the bassist perfectly supports Hersch during his brilliant and enthusiastic soloing. McPherson moves to brushes for the trio's musings on "When Your Lover Has Gone," an evocative display of sensitivity mixed with creativity. While Hersch has never had, and is unlikely to develop, a heavy handed approach to playing, his sound is definitely bolder and more agressive as his trio swirls and storms through the musical whirlwinds of "Whirl." The calm after the storm arrives with "Sad Poet," a Hersch original dedicated to Antonio Carlos Jobim. While McPherson solos over the vamp at the end of the song, the better part of the piece swims through calm waters and—while avoiding any direct reference to Jobim's canon—serves as a fine tribute to this musical pioneer.

Pianist Jaki Byard was one of Hersch's teachers and he pays tribute to this underappreciated educator, composer and performer by interpreting Byard's Thelonious Monk-ish tribute to saxophonist Charlie Parker's mother, "Mrs. Parker of K.C." Hersch's takes on this type of tune are always a study in contrasts, with his clean and precise touch seemingly at odds with the earthy vibe of the music; but these opposing ideals are part of what makes this performance—and many like it—so compelling. The album ends with "Still Here," a reflective musical jewel that pays tribute to saxophonist Wayne Shorter and his continuing ability to create and inspire. In closing the album with such a title, Hersch might have been subconsciously referencing his own brush with death. Thankfully, he too is still here to continue to create and inspire.


Tracks: You're My Everything; Snow Is Falling...;Blue Midnight; Skipping; Mandevilla; When Your Lover Has Gone; Whirl; Sad Poet; Mrs. Parker Of K.C.; Still Here.

Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano; John Hebert: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.


Title: Fred Hersch: Whirl | Year Released: 2010

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read Love, Gloom, Cash, Love Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Phish: St. Louis '93" Extended Analysis Phish: St. Louis '93
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight" Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)" Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "The Rascals: The Complete Singles A's & B's" Extended Analysis The Rascals: The Complete Singles A's & B's
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017