Well-known for his superb songbook tributes and sensitive solo ventures, this time Fred Hersch enters more impressionistic territory with clarinetist Michael Moore and drummer Gerry Hemingway. The landscape is full of abstraction and artful use of spaces, but with an overall fluidity that holds it together. This second release of the Thirteen Ways trio contains nine band originals that explore the realms of harmonic and rhythmic abstraction, and two that celebrate the work of other pianists: Jaki Byard's cheerful "One Note to My Wife," and Misha Mengelberg's sinuous "Habanera," with flashes of tango-in-cheek from Hersch. Alternately pensive and joyful, the tracks range from the whimsical cacophony of "Bug Music" to the Rio-flavored drive of "Fim de Inverno" and the misty lullaby of "Autumn Eves." Located in the midst of the floating, fluttering expeditions is one of Hersch's most beautiful compositions, "Tango Bittersweet," which is opened up here with Hemingway's subtle brushwork and a soulful lead by Moore. While the general style is free, it's never tentative or self-indulgent -- each note has an elegant logic to it, there is clear pulse and group direction, and the players are intensely empathetic in their response to each other. A clear departure from his most popular style, this CD demonstrates Hersch's versatility and the fact that, no matter how ambiguous the excursion, his signature lyricism informs everything he does.
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AllMusic Review by Judith Schlesinger