All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Fred Hersch: Open Book

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
In the aftermath of his coma and very possible demise back in 2008, pianist Fred Hersch blossomed from a status as a first rate jazz pianist into the rarified air of one of the handful of top practitioners of that art form. A series of post-illness albums, from Whirl (2010), to Alone At The Vanguard (2011) to Floating (2014), Solo (2015) and Sunday Night At the Vanguard (2016), all on Palmetto Records, are all solo and trio outings that reveal a heightened artistic clarity and unabashed vulnerability, alongside a deeper emotive approach, this in comparison to his uniformly excellent, but perhaps more cerebral output before his struggle with serious health problems.

Now we have Open Book, Hersch's eleventh solo piano outing.

Intimacy is a hallmark of Hersch's music, and "The Orb," the set's opener, taken from Hersch's autobiographical music/theater piece, My Coma Dreams, is the tenderest, loveliest of love songs, a look at a paramour through, with justification it seems, rose-colored glasses. "Whisper Not," Benny Golson's classic tune, takes things into a turn of the playful, via crisp, prancing piano notes singing over a serious and  assertive left hand. Hersch  visits an old friend, Antonio Carlo Jobim, with "Zingaro," a sublime reverie.

The centerpiece, "Through The Forest," is something unheard of on record by Hersch. It's a nineteen minutes-plus, stream-of-consciousness, improvised in-the-moment masterpiece. An ebb and flow dreamscape of sorts—the most fragile of delicacies and the most sacred and quiet moments slipped in beside emphatic percussive energy—music as enchanting as anything the pianist has ever created.

Then in walks Monk. Hersch includes a Thelonious Monk tune in most every set, most every recording. "Eronel" is a spritely interpretation by Hersch, who immerses himself the challenging music deeper than most anybody, peppering the stride-side  with sparkling, water-splashing-off-the-rocks sounds, rolling into jagged eddies, leading into the closer, Billy Joel's "And So It Goes," solemn, simple, honest, beautiful.

Honesty—another hallmark of Hersch's art.

This is a recording that makes it seem as though Fred Hersch is the finest jazz pianist in the world. That's an impossible assertion, of course. There are a dozen, maybe more pianists who have achieved this  level artistry. But for now, with Open Book, he can wear that title.   .   

Track Listing: The Orb; Whisper Not; Zingaro; Through the Forest; Plainsong; Eronel; And So It Goes.

Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano

Title: Open Book | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Palmetto Records


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read The Questions CD/LP/Track Review
The Questions
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Meerkat Parade CD/LP/Track Review
Meerkat Parade
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 20, 2018
Read The Poetry of Jazz CD/LP/Track Review
The Poetry of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 20, 2018
Read The Unknowable CD/LP/Track Review
The Unknowable
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Like A Radio CD/LP/Track Review
Like A Radio
by Doug Collette
Published: March 20, 2018
Read Live In Healdsburg CD/LP/Track Review
Live In Healdsburg
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 19, 2018
Read "Parrots Paradise" CD/LP/Track Review Parrots Paradise
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 8, 2017
Read "Contact" CD/LP/Track Review Contact
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 31, 2017
Read "Chrome" CD/LP/Track Review Chrome
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 11, 2017
Read "As It Should Be: Ballads 2" CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "The Wandering Woods" CD/LP/Track Review The Wandering Woods
by Jim Olin
Published: October 9, 2017
Read "This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: May 29, 2017