385

Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone: Songs & Lullabies

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

Sign in to view read count
Fred Hersch and Norma Winstone: Songs & Lullabies Pianist Fred Hersch has long been respected in the jazz community for his chops, lush harmonic sense, steady growth and productivity, and the ability to compose beautiful, lingering melodies. His recent Guggenheim fellowship finally recognizes him as a national cultural treasure.

Fred makes Herschian music - using whatever he chooses to best follow his muse - while his work is always jazz-inflected, it embraces classical forms as well. I recently saw him premiere his "24 Variations on a Bach Chorale" at Carnegie Hall and then perform his superb left- handed nocturne. The rest of the program was piano jazz, including some of the selections from Songs & Lullabies, just released on Sunnyside.

One of these may be the most beautiful song Hersch has written to date: originally called "Endless Stars," inspired by (and musically painting) a clear winter night in New Hampshire, his solo version nearly floated me right out of my seat. His trio also does the tune on their recent Live at the Village Vanguard album; on this one it's called "Stars," with lyrics by Norma Winstone that deepen and personalize its meaning.

Norma Winstone is an ideal lyricist for Hersch's lavish melodies. She creates intelligent, poetic, yet succinct statements about life and love and sings them soulfully and naturally, without affectation or schmaltz. Norma doesn't have a big voice, and some may object to the occasional thinness in her upper register, but she's pitch-perfect and her improvisations flow perfectly with Hersch's music. The superb vibraphonist Gary Burton also visits on three tracks, adding texture and light.

It's a very beautiful CD, romantic without being sappy, well-paced with up tunes and ballads, with generous piano solos on every track. Fans of Hersch's '80s classics "Heartsong" and "Sarabande" will find them enhanced by Winstone's sentiments. The witty highlight is "The Eighth Deadly Sin," a Monk-ish tune with dead-on lyrics about deadlines and procrastination.

To those who sniff that Fred Hersch's playing is too intellectual (in my experience, usually those who can't match his technique), I suggest that Hersch has never been more direct, open and emotional than on this CD. Whether passionate or tender, his playing is always thoughtful and consistently brilliant. Bravo on that Guggenheim, Fred. Now the rest of the country is more likely to experience what jazz has known for about 30 years.


Track Listing: Longing, Stars, A Wish, Lost in Another Time, Songs & Lullabies, Spirits, The Eighth Deadly Sin, Bird in the Rain, To Music, Song of Life, Invitation to the Dance. TT = 58:11

Personnel: Fred Hersch/piano, composer, producer; Norma Winstone/lyrics, vocals, producer; Gary Burton/ vibes

Title: Songs & Lullabies | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Birdhoused CD/LP/Track Review Birdhoused
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 1
by Troy Dostert
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Meeting My Shadow CD/LP/Track Review Meeting My Shadow
by James Nadal
Published: July 22, 2017
Read No Secrets No Lies CD/LP/Track Review No Secrets No Lies
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 22, 2017
Read 50 CD/LP/Track Review 50
by Doug Collette
Published: July 22, 2017
Read Day After Day CD/LP/Track Review Day After Day
by John Eyles
Published: July 21, 2017
Read "King of the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review King of the Blues
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 27, 2016
Read "Strange Voodoo from Electric Salad Studio: Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Strange Voodoo from Electric Salad Studio: Volume 1
by Jack Gold-Molina
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "Small Town" CD/LP/Track Review Small Town
by John Kelman
Published: May 19, 2017
Read "Escualo" CD/LP/Track Review Escualo
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "The Seasons" CD/LP/Track Review The Seasons
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 29, 2017
Read "Picking Order" CD/LP/Track Review Picking Order
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 17, 2016

Support All About Jazz: MAKE A PURCHASE  

Support our sponsor

Upgrade Today!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.

Donate!