Friday, January 4, 2013

Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard

Jazz's Finest Working Triumvirate 
Alive .. not Live: more then a detail!
Hans Koert

Fred Hersch latest album, Alive at the Vanguard is played by one of his best trios  ……  if not his best trio up to now.  This may be my best trio playing on record, in terms of range, sound, being in the moment, and the way we play together, Hersch said.   The trio, featuring Fred Hersch at the piano, John Hébert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums, Jazz’s Finest Working Triumvirate.

(Palmetto Records PM 2159)

The album contains a selection of tunes, that the trio played at the Village Vanguard  in New York City during the second week of February 2012.  The 2cd album contains 15 tracks (18 tunes), half Fred Hersch compositions and half jazz originals, like Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, Nardis or From This Moment On.
Fred Hersch is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant and surprising piano players around – I cherish albums in my collection like Thelonious:  Fred Hersch plays Monk (1997). The DVD Let Yourself Go – Die Leben des Jazz Pianisten Fred Hersch ( The Lives of Fred Hersch) by  Katja Durreger (2008) impressed and is a very personal document of the many lives of Fred Hersch, fighting against his HIV infectiona life-threaten infection as a sword of Damocles.

Both Hersch sidemen are great accompanists.  John Hébert, I heard him in Fred Hersch group at the 2009 North Sea Jazzfestival in Rotterdam, plays with Fred Hersch for years.  I’ve always loved John’s playing.  I was attracted to him by his sound. He’s from Baton Rouge, and his playing has a looseness that’s great to me. Fred continues: He’s also done his homework in the tradition. He can really play a ballad and he knows where the substitute chords are. One of John’s first recordings was with vocalist – guitarist Eddie Hazzel (1995) and he met Fred Hersch at the set of the 1998 Barbara Sfraga  recording for the Naxos album Oh What A Thrill.

Fred Hersch ( photo courtesy: Michael Jackson)

Although drummer Eric McPherson is new in the trio, he has played before in the bands of Jackie McLean, Pharaoh Sanders, Andrew Hill and Greg Osby. I heard him at the North Sea Jazz Festival July 2004 with the Jackie McLean QuintetEric is incredible at what we call the transition game, going from brushes to sticks and other implements, Hersch said: I’m not sure, how many people realize that. He’s a kind of a sleeper. He knows the tradition in and out. He came up as a sideman with some great musicians and he is quite a magician himself. 

Hard to say what track I like best …………. Due to the fact that it is a live recorded album the tunes are not limited to any length, but, remarkable, most tunes are not longer then ca. 7 minutes ……. The ideal length, in my opinion. ( some tracks, that contain two tunes,  like Lonely Woman / Nardis or The Song Is you / Played Twice are double length)
It’s not by accident that the title of the album reads: Alive at the Vanguard and not Live at the Vanguard. In 2010 Fred Hersch felt into a two-month coma, so deep that his doctors feared he’d never regain consciousness. In a previous album, he used this near-death experience into the album My Coma Dreams featuring librettist Herschel Garfin

Fred Hersch (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

This album, Fred Hersch Trio – Alive At The Vanguard is one of those albums that has the potency to become a classic ………  Find your self a copy.

Hans Koert

Fred Hersch latest album must have been one of his best ...... A year ago he performed at the Village Vanguard in New York City for a week and a selection of these sets were released in a great 2cd album Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard (PM 2159) .... Alive ... not Live .... more then a detail!

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