On September 11, Palmetto Records will release the Fred Hersch Trio’s Alive at the Vanguard, a two-disc set showcasing the pianist—along with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson—at the Manhattan club that’s become something like his second home. Hersch is pleased with the recording, which features seven new originals, four American Songbook gems and seven classic jazz tunes.
“This may be my best trio playing on record, in terms of range, sound, being in the moment, and the way we play together,” says Hersch, 56. “Not that I disown any of my former albums, but considering where I was three to four years ago, this is very strong, focused playing. And sonically I think it really captures the Vanguard. It sounds different than a studio album, and it should sound different, so you feel like you’re there.”
After spending much of the previous decade performing with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits, Hersch introduced his latest trio on his 2010 Palmetto debut Whirl. Hébert and McPherson had served in pianist Andrew Hill’s last rhythm section and they already had a built-in history. “I’ve always loved John’s playing,” Hersch says. “Like Drew, I was attracted to him by his sound. He’s from Baton Rouge, and his playing has a looseness that’s great for me. He’s also done his homework in the tradition. He can really play a ballad, and he knows where the substitute chords are.”
As for McPherson, who’s built a solid career accompanying the likes of Pharaoh Sanders, Greg Osby and, for 15 years, Jackie McLean, Hersch says, “Eric is incredible at what we call the transition game — going from brushes to sticks and other implements.” I’m not sure how many people realize that. He’s kind of a sleeper. He knows the tradition in and out. He came up as a sideman with some great musicians and he is quite a magician himself.”
Beginning on September—at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe, Michigan—the Fred Hersch Trio will tour in support of the album. For dates and more information, go to www.fredhersch.com.