All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

249

The Fred Hersch Ensemble: Leaves of Grass

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
For Leaves of Grass, pianist/composer Fred Hersch has set the poetry of Walt Whitman to music. Without a doubt that this is a very great record. Hersch's compositions, which showcase the singing of Kurt Elling (mostly) and Kate McGarry, are jazz, but, happily, they are not otherwise easily classifiable. They bring a modern post-bop drive to Walt Whitman's celestial verse, thanks in large part to John Hollenbeck's drumming. Fortunately, Whitman's speech-like cadences easily lend themselves to swinging.

One could point out highlights on Leaves of Grass. However, the entire work flows as a unified, organic piece, with the motives that assert themselves in "After The Dazzle Of Day" demonstrating their growth from "A Riddle Song" and "Song Of the Universal." And Whitman's expansive poetry links him to a universe pulsating with joyous life. So this music also pulsates, swings, if you will, and it embraces multitudes: rhythmic variety from Latin to some 4/4 swing with dancing (not walking) bass; superb Tricky Sam is now plunger-muted trombone by Mike Christianson. The horn solos are uniformly wonderful and full of wonder. Ralph Alessi, surely a giant on today's scene, displays flexible tonal mastery, climaxing "After The Dazzle Of Day" with a shining sound. Like Kurt Elling, he must be heard here. Bruce Williamson contributes some wailing alto, and Tony Malaby, another giant arising, plays some breathy, memorably warm tenor. And Erik Friedlander adds profoundly masterful cello work.

In fact, this could be considered as a memorable Kurt Elling record; he is that good here. Leaves of Grass might be his best recorded performance ever. He sings Whitman's words as if he wrote them himself. His singing on this recording is indispensible. Plainly put, Leaves of Grass is indispensible.


Track Listing: A Riddle Song (overture); Song of the Universal; Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand; Song of Myself: Part I ("I Celebrate Myself"); Part II ("A Child Said, 'What is the Grass'"); Part III ("A Learner With the Simplest"); Part IV ("I Exist as I Am"); Part V ("I Am He That Walks"); Part VI ("Through Me Forbidden Voices"); Part VII ("Now I Will Do Nothing But Listen"); Part VIII ("I Believe a Leaf of Grass"); Part IX ("I Fly Those Flights"); Part X ("My Lovers Suffocate Me"); Part XI ("Why Should I Wish to See God"); The Mystic Trumpeter; At the Close of the Day (instrumental); To You/Perfections; The Sleepers; Spirit That Form'd This Scene/On the Beach at Night Alone; After the Dazzle of the Day

Personnel: Fred Hersch, piano, music; Raplh Alessi, trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Chistianson, trombone; Bruce Williamson, clarinet, alto sax, bass clarinet; Tony Malaby, tenor sax; Erik Friedlander, cello; Drew Gress, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums, percussion; Kate McGarry, voice; Kurt Elling, voice.

Title: Leaves of Grass | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Palmetto Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Outsidethebox CD/LP/Track Review
Outsidethebox
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 16, 2018
Read There Are Stars In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review
There Are Stars In Brooklyn
by James Fleming
Published: October 16, 2018
Read The Seasons of Being CD/LP/Track Review
The Seasons of Being
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 16, 2018
Read Passages CD/LP/Track Review
Passages
by Don Phipps
Published: October 16, 2018
Read Picture in Black and White CD/LP/Track Review
Picture in Black and White
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: October 15, 2018
Read Change In The Air CD/LP/Track Review
Change In The Air
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 15, 2018
Read "First Things First" CD/LP/Track Review First Things First
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: May 8, 2018
Read "Decoy" CD/LP/Track Review Decoy
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 19, 2018
Read "The Planets" CD/LP/Track Review The Planets
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 6, 2018
Read "Mo Jodi" CD/LP/Track Review Mo Jodi
by Phillip Woolever
Published: September 27, 2018
Read "The Berlin Concert" CD/LP/Track Review The Berlin Concert
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 18, 2018
Read "Return to the Future" CD/LP/Track Review Return to the Future
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 7, 2018