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Trio + 2 bops hard in places but falls outside of the hard bop conventions that its players inherently possess. The result is just under one hour of autonomous music that transcends true bop ensemble but falls short of pure quintet improvisation. Fred Hersch’s timing defines this record, which was officially released one week before his six-night Village Vanguard residency with the group late last month. Trio + 2 takes turns swinging the location of rhythm between all players: Hersch (piano), Drew Gress (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums), Ralph Alessi (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Tony Malaby (tenor saxophone). From the pulsating bass-drum accents of “A Riddle Song” to the cessation on “The Chase,” many ideas are woven into a bop rhythm tapestry. The album’s only cover tune provides its most sedate moments. Although other jazz players may interpret The Beatles this way, Hersch and company make this interpretation of “And I Love Her” a simple joy, such as Paul McCartney and John Lennon likely intended. One yearns for more.
“...The interest was to use the horns at times just as an orchestral element, not to do a ‘string of solos’ typical jazz quintet CD,” says Hersch. On Trio + 2, horns provide distinct voices that fit neither ensemble nor orchestration. Ralph Alessi and Tony Malaby function within a literacy of which hard bopping horning is but a small part.
The players have transcended their time. In this sense, Trio + 2 does not quite reach what it seeks to grasp. Great expectations often leave mixed results. This Fred Hersch quintet surges and recedes in defiance of groove. Trio + 2 is a set of aural waves that do not emote. Only “Rain Waltz” possesses the type of holistic serenity that comforts the ear on the upsurge. In a less hurried time, Hersch might have more deeply explored half as many ideas musical ideas. Fred Hersch has grown so much since his last quintet recording (thirteen years ago) that Trio +2 represents an artistic challenge: how to make new playing fit an aging framework.
Track Listing: 1. A Riddle Song - 6:13
2. And I Love Her - 4:41
3. Miss B. - 6:23
4. Black Dog Pays a Visit - 6:53
5. A Lark - 6:23
6. Down Home - 4:54
7. Rain Waltz - 8:02
8. Marshall's Plan - 6:32
9. Lee's Dream - 4:46
10. The Chase - 3:22
Personnel: Fred Hersch - Piano;
Ralph Alessi - Trumpet, Flugelhorn;
Drew Gress - Bass;
Nasheet Waits - Drums;
Tony Malaby - Tenor Sax.