Fred Hersch (piano) – Solo – Palmetto Records PM 2180, 60:36 ****:
Fred Hersch is a commanding pianist who uses all ten fingers to build musical dynamics, harmonics, and chordal balance, to confirm his full control of his instrument. In Solo, his latest release on Palmetto Records, these straits are on full display, as he runs through seven compositions that are musical stories, full of sparking images and an unimpeded sense of expression.
Beginning with a medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions, namely “Olha Maria/ O Grande Amor”, Hersch never restricts his probing intuition, as he seeks to stretch the frame of the compositions, and capture their harmonic integrity. Juan Tizol wrote “Caravan” which became a staple in the band book of The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Hersch opens the tune with some distorted notes, that resonate with an intensity meant to convey the probing structure of the composition.
The two original compositions by Hersch are entitled “Pastorale” and “Whirl”. In the former, Hersch has developed the number as a tribute to Robert Schumann. For those who may not be familiar with classical music, Schumann was a German composer, who was regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. This period was characterized by composers writing music to express deep emotions, and expanding the palette of the orchestra. Hersch indulges himself with an intriguing canvas of interpretation, by building colour and texture to communicate his own emotions.
Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud” prances lightly across the keyboard with Hersch approaching the material with inquisitiveness,and an exploratory compassion, yet remaining faithful to the underlying nature of the composition. The session closes with Canadian Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” with Hersch capturing the wistful nature of the tune, showing straightforwardness and warmth. Fred Hersch is a pianist of unfailing imagination, who plays with a coherence of touch and conception.
TrackList: Olha Maria/O Grande Amor; Caravan; Pastorale; Whirl; The Song Is You; In Walked Bud; Both Sides Now