Fred Hersch / Fred Hersch Trio

Alive at the Vanguard

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Originally tagged as a Bill Evans disciple by some writers early in his career, Fred Hersch has long since distinguished himself as a pianist with a distinctive sound of his own who constantly challenges himself as a performer, composer, and arranger. These trio performances, with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson, are from a six-day booking at the Village Vanguard in early 2012. His spacious, thoughtful "Tristesse," dedicated to the late drummer Paul Motian, has a classical air at first, then it gradually unfolds its colors with his magical improvisation. When he's in the mood, Hersch can play bop with the best of them, delivering a playful, spirited rendition of Charlie Parker's infrequently heard "Segment." Even more inspired is the medley which follows, opening with a tense, brooding setting of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman," which leads into an introspective interpretation of Miles Davis' '"Nardis" that is far and away very different from Bill Evans' numerous recordings. Hersch's whimsical "Dream of Monk" is a catchy reworking of "Monk's Dream" which showcase Hébert's understated bass solo. The pianist has long been one of the top ballad interpreters in jazz; his haunting take of "I Fall in Love Too Easily" would be heaven for any vocalist. His catchy "Jackalope" has a jagged rhythm and many sudden twists, yet the trio navigates it as if they've been playing it together for ages. The quirky "Sartorial," dedicated to Ornette Coleman, features Hersch's adventurous avant-garde side. With two to three sets being played each night during this Village Vanguard booking, it must have been challenging to pick only two discs of material for release. Hopefully, more music from these six nights by the Fred Hersch Trio will follow.

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