Fred Hersch is a well-respected session pianist and bandleader who has taught at the New School and is currently on the faculty of the New England Conservatory in Boston. This disc documents a faculty recital he played in October of 1998, a concert that was never intended to be released commercially. But Hersch, who hadn't played a full concert in public for over six months before his recital at Jordan Hall, was so pleased with this performance that he agreed to allow Nonesuch to issue it on CD. He was right. The program opens with a gently stunning rendition of the folk song "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," which then segues into the love theme from Spartacus, a tune generally associated with the late Bill Evans, and one which Hersch plays with an impressionistic delicacy that harks back explicitly to Evans. There are other standards, including the Gershwin classic "I Loves You Porgy" and Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You," as well as a rather meditative rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk," on which Hersch uses open chords in manner that evokes the Balkan modalisms of Bartok. One of the more touching performances here is his piano arrangement of the Joni Mitchell song "My Old Man." Everything is played with virtuosic flair, but Hersch never shows off his technique or lapses into noodling self-indulgence. The result is a solo album of rare insight and musicality. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson