Fred Hersch

Plays Billy Strayhorn

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For this well-rounded tribute to the great Billy Strayhorn (a nearly invisible genius during his lifetime), pianist Fred Hersch performs a dozen of Strayhorn's compositions, mixing together well-known tunes with such obscurities as "Lament for an Orchid," "Ballad for Very Tired and Very Sad Lotus-Eaters," and "Pretty Girl." Hersch takes three numbers as unaccompanied solos (including a beautiful version of "Lotus Blossom"), four trio performances with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey, a duet with singer Andy Bey ("Something to Live For"), three selections in which the trio is joined by a string section, and a piano duet with Nurit Tiles on "Tonk." Although the emphasis is on ballads and great respect is shown for Strayhorn's melodies, Fred Hersch varies the tempos, uses some advanced harmonies, and lets his own musical personality shine through. Highly recommended.