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Album Review

Fred Hersch: Songs From Home

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Fred Hersch: Songs From Home
As Fred Hersch is sometimes wont to do, this album is built around a story, some of which is intended, and some of which may be embedded in the pianist's unconscious and manifested in his imagination and the way that he plays. The conscious part is simple, and basically stated in the liner notes. Hersch leaves the pandemic conditions around his loft in Manhattan and is in semi-isolation in his country home in northeastern Pennsylvania. He and his partner built the home around a familiar but imperfect Steinway piano whose sound is more intimate than grand, so to speak. With a history of a home studio which he used to create some of his own and others' recordings, he thinks of using his laptop to make an album. Why not? Having come a long way from his family home in Ohio, he dwells nostalgically on the musical influences from his life then. He'll make an album of "Songs from Home," a couple of jazz standards, and some that aren't necessarily "jazz" but float around in his (and our collective) memory.

Sitting at the piano, the feeling he creates is of "a home somewhere, far away from the cold night air," words from the Lerner and Lowe song from My Fair Lady, "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" That nostalgic plaint comes out surprisingly as something resembling a church hymn. The album becomes a kind of a personal reverie where he takes a song and goes where he wants with it, sometimes even altering the form, as when Cole Porter's "Get Out of Town" emerges as a tango with its own twists that even Astor Piazzolla might not have considered. At other times, songs like "Wichita Lineman," Joni Mitchell's "All I Want," and the folk song, "The Water is Wide" are played with apparent simplicity but with tasteful imaginative turns which seek out something hidden. The album has a feeling of quiet introspection, letting the mind and the music go where they want, and coming back to something central in a melody or an idea, like free association, like a stream of consciousness.

As one listens to the album, one may be reminded of some lines from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, "East Coker":

"Home is where one starts from. As we grow older The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated...

There is a time for the evening under starlight, A time for the evening under lamplight (The evening with the photograph album)...

We must be still and still moving Into another intensity

For a further union, a deeper communion...

In my end is my beginning."

This is an album that will give you some time with your thoughts and memories in a quiet space that is your home. Home is where the heart is, and home is that place of peace within which we feel we belong. Once again, Fred Hersch has given us a part of himself and of our collective love of music, and a message of quietude and hope in the midst of the sufferings we undergo in life and which he himself has experienced with honesty, courage, and grace.

Track Listing

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.

Personnel

Fred Hersch: piano.

Album information

Title: Songs from Home | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Palmetto Records


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