Fred Hersch Trio – Floating – Palmetto Records PM2171, 58:34 ****:
(Fred Hersch – piano; John Hebert – bass; Eric McPherson – drums)
In an article for Vanity Fair, Tad Hendrikson offered the following assessment of pianist Fred Hersch: “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz in the last decade or so.” The release of his latest project Floating with his current cohorts does nothing to diminish the context of that quotation.
As described by Fred Hersch in the liner notes, this session is structured in a similar fashion to a live performance with the opening tune usually a standard, followed by a series of original pieces, then a ballad from the American Popular Songbook, and finally a Thelonious Monk composition. Thus “You & The Night & The Music” opens the proceedings in an unusual 12/8 time signature which allows the band to indulge in its contrapuntal leanings with Hersch’s improvisational proclivities in the forefront.
Complexity is generally a watchword for Hersch’s compositions with only the degree to be decided. For example on the title track, “Floating”, Hersch leaves lots of open space within a harmonically stripped down framework. On the tune “Home Fries” which is dedicated to bassist John Herbert, there is lots going on to bring out the Louisiana-driven feeling.
Fred Hersch is acknowledged as a pianist who is consistently audacious delivering intriguing chord changes as he controls the keyboard. Consequently in Hebert and McPherson he has bass and drum compatriots who are smart, stylish, and committed bandmates. As they run through the set, whether it be the delightful “Autumn Haze” or the animated “Arcata”, the playing is never less than intriguing. The trio is at its elegant and incisive best on the Lerner & Lowe ballad “If Ever I Would Leave You” demonstrating an aesthetic that is both contemporary and sagacious. This is an eloquent trio with an extensive inventiveness.
TrackList: You & The Night & The Music; Floating; West Virginia Rose; Home Fries; Far Away; Arcata; A Speech To The Sea; Autumn Haze; If Ever I Would Leave You; Let’s Cool One