Fred Hersch is one of the finest modern jazz pianists today of the more intellectual bent – I think of Keith Jarrett, Ran Blake, Denny Zeitlin and others. It really puts a sonic magnifying glass on the music when a pianist abandons the usual piano trio or larger ensemble and performs entirely solo, especially in front of a live audience as Hersch does here. He essays eight tunes; I wish there was information with the CD on composers, because I gather than several of these are Hersch originals.
The opening A Lark reminded me of Ravel’s Le Gibet at the start, with its obsessively repeated single note. A similar thing occurs at the conclusion of the 12-minute Jimmy Rowles tune The Peacocks, only this time the repeated ostinato is at the very top of the treble end of the keyboard. Thelonious Monk’s tune Evidence doesn’t get clearly quoted until about 40 seconds from the end of the track. Up till then it’s like a serial piano work – “Swiss cheese music” I calls it. Though it does become gradually more tonal as it works its way toward that final 40 seconds. Sort of like solving a puzzle in sound. The Brazilian standard O Grande Amor also begins with an atonal introduction. Is Hersch doing his own version of Erroll Garner’s old trick here?
Tracks: A Lark, The Nearness of You, Evidence, At the Close of the Day, O Grande Amor, The Peacocks, Don’t Blame Me, Valentine.
– John Sunier