All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 (or more) and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.


I want to help

254

Fred Hersch: In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By
Published:
Sign in to view read count
Fred Hersch: In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis It's time to use the g-word when referring to Fred Hersch. Although the word has been overused and thoroughly diluted in our culture, for me it's as elusive as the g-spot. In fact, I've never used the term "genius" to describe a living artist—at least, not until now—and it's probably long overdue, at that.



What makes a genius, anyway? I believe it requires an inspired originality that's way beyond talent, and a restless, searching intelligence that continues to grow and develop. Hersch stretches higher and plumbs deeper with more consisistency than any pianist I can think of, and that field sparkles with excellent players. It's not just his boundary busting, like setting Whitman to music in his Leaves of Grass, or writing jazz variations on Bach, a left-handed nocturne, or a choro while also swinging the Village Vanguard with his trio. It's not even the brilliance and beauty of his compositions, three of which appear on this release: "A Lark," "At the Close of the Day," and "Valentine," or the unsurpasssed lyricism and assured fluidity of his playing.



All of this helps, to be sure, but to qualify as "genius" you must see things differently from others, and be able to communicate that vision to your audience. Here, Hersch's exploration of "O Grande Amor" is utterly transformative: when he delves into its soul it becomes an astonishing contrapuntal flow. Although I'm a card-carrying Jobim fanatic, I've never heard it conceptualized that way. Similarly, Hersch's lustrous rendition of "The Nearness of You" is bolder and more multifaceted than ever (he's recorded it solo before, on Let Yourself Go (Nonesuch, 1999). It's always a beautiful tune, but Hersch lifts it to a whole new level of richness and imagination. To complete this stunning set, Jimmy Rowles's "The Peacocks" gets a twelve-minute meditation that becomes its own transcendent world, and Hersch does things with Monk's "Evidence" and "Don't Blame Me" that stamp them indelibly with his signature.



Live at Bimhuis also benefits from the convergence of several happy conditions. As Hersch explains in the liners, it was recorded without his knowing it, thereby eliminating his usual self-consciousness; the piano was a brand-new nine-foot Steinway; it was the last night of a ten-day solo European tour; the unusually attentive and savvy audience included a number of close friends. And, as he puts it, it was "one of those magical nights where everything felt right."



Magic indeed. Nobody knows exactly what makes one musician very, very good, and another a genius, but whatever it is, you can hear it on this release.


Track Listing: A Lark; The Nearness of You; Evidence; At the Close of the Day; O Grande Amor; The Peacocks; Don't Blame Me; Valentine.

Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Palmetto Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop For Jazz

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
  • Solo by Dan McClenaghan
  • Solo by Mark Sullivan
Read more articles
Sundat Night At The Vanguard
Sundat Night At The...
Palmetto Records
2016
buy
Sunday Night At The Village Vanguard
Sunday Night At The...
Palmetto Records
2016
buy
Sarabande
Sarabande
Sunnyside Records
2016
buy
Solo
Solo
Palmetto Records
2015
buy
Fred Hersch Solo
Fred Hersch Solo
Palmetto Records
2015
buy
Floating
Floating
Palmetto Records
2015
buy

Fred Hersch Events

Date Event Time Tickets
Apr8Fri Fred Hersch
Spivey Hall
Morrow, GA
7:30 PM
$40.00

More Articles

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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