French Impressionists in a jazz setting. Generally playing each piece as it was initially conceived, Fred Hersch builds upon the structure of each of the 11 timeless melodies, producing a number of stimulating improvisations. Joined by a rhythm section consisting of bassist Steve LaSpina, and drummer Joey Baron, (with Jeff Hirschfield taking his place on the final selection), Hersch adds a special guest on seven tracks. James Newton's haunting flute is the focal point of Debussy's Prelude from Suite Bergamasque, while Kevin Eubanks' acoustic guitar shares the spotlight with the leader in Ravel's 1st Movement (Modere) from Sonatine. Harmonica great Toots Thielemans is dazzling in the waltz-time treatment of Sonatine by Fauré. Hersch beat Gary Burton and Makoto Ozone to the punch by a dozen years with his virtuoso trio adaptation of Ravel's "Prelude from Le Tombeau de Couperin." Clarinetist Eddie Daniels is a bit too close to the mic during Fauré's Apres un Reve; his gasps for air between passages are distracting, though his performance is flawless. This recommended CD is an excellent tool to get fans of one genre of music exposed to the other, though it may be tough to acquire, since it is no longer in print.
The French Collection Review
by Ken Dryden