Friday, October 19, 2012

Fred Hersch: Alive At The Vanguard

Fred Hersch (piano)
Alive At The Vanguard (Palmetto Records; 2012)
John Hebert (bass)
Eric McPherson (drums)

On a typical cold night in February a friend of mine and I made our what seems annual pilgrimage to see Fred Hersch play a series of dates at the legendary Village Vanguard.

Seeing Hersch live in any configuration is always going to be exciting and celebratory. Where as his solo performances are obviously more intimate and personal, in the trio setting he really lets loose and creates a sense of vitality with each performance.

This series of performances are captured splendidly on Alive At The Vanguard. "Tristesse" is a sweet tribute to the late drummer, Paul Motian. It's a ballad the embodies everything Motian projected. The piece is well crafted with subtle harmonies and a soft tone of haunting beauty.

Hersch's own "Dream Of Monk" and the Sonny Rollins classic "Doxy" are both pure delights. Hersch's intimacy and detail shine on these two pieces. The influence of both legends can be felt in the humour of "Dream Of Monk" and romantic blues-like flow of "Doxy." Hebert and McPherson give the "Doxy" a bit more jump allowing you to focus and the feel the tunes emotional impact. 

Some cool beats and fast complex notes inhabit, "Jackalope." Hebert and McPherson ignite a very uptempo rhythm for Hersch to playfully swerve in and out. Probably the fiercest track on this set, it's a compelling piece wrapped in a few layers infectious funky little notes delivered by the trio.

Combining two classic Hammerstein and Monk tunes, "The Song Is You/Played Twice" is a soft and tender touch of genius. The trio go from a compassionate slow down version of the classic "Song..." to a wonderful improvised jaunt of "Twice," that has all the energy of a Monk number. And an excellent way to close out the night.

This live session was great to see. I have no idea if any of the songs are from the night I went but its great to have a tangible memory of it. A solid document of a week long run at the legendary club. This very well could be my favourite live album from Fred HerschAlive At The Vanguard is definitely one of my albums of the year. Highly Recommended!

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