Fred Hersch Trio
Night & the Music
Let’s get right to it: Fred Hersch is one of the best contemporary mainstream jazz pianists. That’s why it’s a shock to learn that this is his first trio recording in a studio in more than a decade. It’s a welcome return, as this disc serves to solidify an already stellar reputation.
Although Hersch has proven himself adept in various settings – he’s an especially sympathetic vocal accompanist – it’s the trio format that allows his lyrical style to shine most brightly. Whether taking on a standard such as “So In Love” or an original tune like “Heartland,” Hersch displays an uncommon elegance that never relies on a single motif.
Methodical and deliberate phrases give way to rich, flowing lines and thick chordal passages, while soft, quiet moments seamlessly morph into more aggressive sections. A free-floating sketch called “Galaxy Fragment” serves as the intro to “You and the Night and the Music,” which Hersch begins slowly and quietly before building to a crescendo filled with slightly dissonant chords that fracture the melody ever so slightly. Bassist Drew Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits are in complete sympathy throughout, ably supporting Hersch’s subtle shifts in tempo and dynamics.
Hersch has always been among the better interpreters of Thelonious Monk’s compositions, mainly because he stays true to Monk’s spirit without copying his mannerisms. Here, we get two Monk pieces infused with Hersch’s usual grace and intelligence – the playful “Boo Boo’s Birthday” and a leisurely paced “Misterioso.”
Nearly every moment showcases a seamless blend of technique, invention, and emotion. That is to say, all the things you expect from a Fred Hersch performance.
- John Frederick Moore