This is a deeply romantic CD, but not the fluffy kind: its music and words are powerful and introspective, rather than syrupy or sentimental. Fred Hersch has recorded with many fine vocalists -- Janis Siegel, Meredith d'Ambrosio, Barbara Sfraga, and Luciana Souza among them -- but this is the first time these 11 compositions are all his own, with lyrics and vocals by Azimuth co-founder Norma Winstone. Her words are intelligent and poetic, perfectly fitted to Hersch's lush melodies, and she sings with soul and grace. The songs span two decades, from Hersch's '80s trademarks "Heartsong" and "Sarabande" to recent work like the transcendentally beautiful "Endless Stars" -- which becomes "Stars" here, and also appears on his recent trio CD, Live at the Village Vanguard. Master vibist Gary Burton joins the duo on three tracks; his interplay with Hersch on "A Wish" is particularly delicious, like two fast-flowing streams tumbling and sparkling in the sun. Winstone turns the familiar "Heartsong" into "Song of Life," a purely joyful celebration. Aside from the banquet of Hersch's incomparable lyricism, there's also humor in the Monk-ish "The Eighth Deadly Sin" (procrastination) where Winstone brilliantly describes the agony of approaching a creative deadline. Songs and Lullabies offers an intimate yet universal journey, full of wistful meditations on love; warmly recorded, it's a must for fans of Hersch and Winstone and aficionados of the highest levels of jazz piano and musicianship. This CD is life-affirming, inspiring, gorgeous, and highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Judith Schlesinger