During the 1990s, many jazz musicians considered Johnny Mandel as one of the greatest living composers, but this solo outing by Fred Hersch is one of the few releases that sticks exclusively to his compositions. The pianist doesn't just stick to Mandel's best known works; the somewhat dark "Moon Song" receives its recording debut here, while the mood is also bittersweet in his interpretation of "I Never Told You." The influence of Thelonious Monk is immediately obvious in the delightful "Sure as You're Born." It was difficult for the pianist to choose among the many standards written by Mandel, but Hersch's upbeat take of "A Time for Love," his very sparse deliberate arrangement of "Emily," and a brisk reading of "Close Enough for Love" all stand apart from approaches typically utilized by jazz musicians. But Hersch's most captivating interpretation of Mandel's music is his duo piano version of "Seascape," which he created by overdubbing a second track. All in all, this is a superb release that can especially benefit those new to jazz; the combination of a master composer and an inspired interpreter make for enjoyable listening.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden