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Pianist Fred Hersch's influence and prominence in modern jazz speaks proverbial volumes, whether performing as an ensemble leader or as a solo performer, evidenced here on his renditions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's songbook. As might be anticipated, Hersch approaches the material from a deeply personalized perspective. He refrains from dishing out note-for-note readings by morphing variable rhythmic patterns and gobs of depth amid stately classical structures and other factors.
The pianist's imaginative interpretations yield bountiful fruit throughout these nine pieces. Hersch fuses an austere classical phraseology into "O Grande Amor," while prominently highlighting the inherent melody line within dashes of eloquence and technical marksmanship. His penchants for nuance and subtlety are evident, and it's all enamored by a nouveau spin on Jobim's distinct compositional style.
Hersch initiates "Insensatez," with a quietly probing gait, and opens it up during the bridge atop a rolling pulse and his dainty rendering of the primary theme. Moreover, he finalizes with a sequence of hush-toned progressions and ever-so-gentle single note lines. Percussionist Jamey Haddad appears on the buoyant and upbeat "Brigas Nunca Mais," and Hersch closes out the proceedings with "Corcovado," where he expressively merges pensive notes with understated motifs and lushly organized chord clusters.
Thankfully, it's not just another tribute album, but more of a building block for the pianist's vast assimilation of ideas and concepts. He drills deep, while not surfacing as overly cerebral or tricky. Hersch is clever all right, but the output transcends the norm. It's a pleasurable listen, awash with quaint little surprises and cunning deviations that enables the music to sound fresh and invigorating; consummated by the artist's masterful touch.
Track Listing: Por Toda Minha Vida; O Grande Amor; Luiza; Meditacao; Insensatez; Brigas Nunca Mais; Modinha/Olha Maria; Desafinado; Corcovado.
Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano; Jamey Haddad: percussion (6).
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.