In order for solo piano playing to be maintained at a high standard, the artist must exhibit a prolific imagination, a wealth of conviction and self-assurance, note-striking precision and a firm sense of swing. Throughout his career, Fred Hersch has exhibited these qualities. Since performers (be they musicians, dancers or actors) are generally defined by their craft (otherwise they are just regular folks like the rest of us) even in these uncertain times, they continue to look for inventive ways to express themselves.
Hersch found his in this self-recording from his home in rural Pennsylvania and performed on a familiar but imperfect seven foot Steinway B. He did it by bringing a new openness to an album of covers. "Many of these songs date back to the years before I even knew what jazz was," says Hersch.
Hersch belongs to a coterie of jazz pianists who are musically educated and have a versatility in their work that allows them to survive in today's environment. In this eleven track recital, Hersch's overall approach is basically to be faithful to the primary themes of each composition but extend the rhythmic pattern in many ways through the improvisational process. Opening with "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," Hersch lays down a reflective structure as he putters over passages to extract his intended mood. Glen Campbell had a hit with Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman," which talks about love lost on an endless highway. Hersch states the theme then moves on, holding the original material in a standoff fashion, as he explores its contours.
The ever reliable Cole Porter invokes a well known theme in "Get Out Of Town," which Hersch approaches in a rakish upbeat fashion as he plays the theme phrase in a series of eighth notes. As the number progresses, Hersch abandons the melody and replaces it with improvised passages that he negotiates as an ever changing theme before returning to the familiar melody.
As he negotiates his way through the remaining compositions, two of which, "West Virginia Rose" and "Sarabande," are is own, Hersch contemplates the structures of the pieces and finds an accessibility that offers a lucidity to their interpretation. During October, Hersch would have celebrated his 65th birthday. So he gave himself a birthday present with a re-imagining of the Lennon/McCartney classic "When I'm Sixty-Four." He uses a playful stride technique to bring the album to a close in anticipation of better days ahead.
Throughout this release, Fred Hersch plays with an elusiveness and unconventionality that is meant to sustain the listener's interest, which he unfailingly does.
Wouldn't It Be Loverly; Wichita Lineman; After You've Gone; All I Want; Get Out of Town; West Virginia Rose/The Water Is Wide; Sarabande; Consolation (A Folk Song); Solitude; When I'm Sixty-Four.
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