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24-BIT MASTERING AUDIOPHILE CD. Fred Hersch is one of the greatest jazz pianists of our generation. Equipped with Bill Evans-esque lyricism, boundless imagination and fierce creativity, he has recorded many beautiful albums for various labels. His career was almost cut short by AIDS, but he came back from a near-death experience and began recording again. From this background comes his surprising first album for Venus Records. Unlike his recent releases, this album consists entirely of standards. Aided by John Herbert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums, Hersch displays his prestine tone, elegant interpretations of the standards, and his improvisational flair which often climaxes towards the end of a tune. An inspirational, strong trio album from the contemporary master of jazz piano! Highly recommended! Produced by Tetsuo Hara and Todd Barkan. Recorded at Avatar Studio in New York on May 19 and 20, 2010. Engineered by Katherine Miller. Mixed and mastered by Tetsuo Hara.Personnel: FRED HERSCH, piano JOHN HERBERT, bass ERIC McPHERSON, drums Recorded at Avatar Studio in New York on May 19 and 20, 2010.
Biographie de l'artiste
A superior soloist, accompanist, and interpreter of ballads, Fred Hersch started playing piano when he was four. He moved to New York in 1977 and worked as a sideman with many players including Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Toots Thielemans, Art Farmer, Jane Ira Bloom, Eddie Daniels, and Janis Siegel, in addition to leading his own groups. During 1980-1986, he taught at the New England Conservatory and became part of the faculty at the New School. In addition, Hersch has recorded extensively as a leader, including for Sunnyside, Concord, Angel/EMI, Red, and Chesky, issuing Songs We Know in 1998. Songs Without Words followed three years later. Since that time, Hersch has remained quite active, releasing a bevy of albums including the three-disc Songs Without Words in 2001, the ambitious Walt Whitman-inspired project Leaves of Grass in 2005, and Night & the Music in 2007. In 2009, Live at Jazz Standard appeared on Sunnyside, billed under the Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra, as did the solo bossa nova-themed effort Fred Hersch Plays Jobim. In 2010, Hersch released Whirl, on Palmetto. A trio recording with drummer Eric McPherson and bassist John Hébert, it focuses on originals but there are three notable covers: film composer Harry Warren's 'You're My Everything', Jaki Byard's 'Mrs. Parker of K.C.', and Paul Motian's 'Blue Midnight'. Hersch was also the subject of a major article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine in 2010 entitled Giant Steps: The Survival of a Great Jazz Pianist, by David Hadju. In 2011, Hersch delivered the live solo album Alone at the Vanguard followed a year later with the trio album Alive at the Vanguard.
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That's true for any Hersch album. He must have some supernatural connection to be able to think in these musical terms and be able to convert those thoughts into music this elevated. Pardon my effusiveness but I see him as the highest development of the evolution of the jazz piano tradition.
This album stands apart from his others in many ways. The concept is somewhat 'retro' but that's not derogatory. It goes back to a time when standards were programmed and the musicians worked out on the chords. There are ten tunes, 64 minutes, one solo track with the last tune giving some time to the drummer. The Japanese producer's hand is clearly visible in the choice of tunes; they aren't Hersch's usual repertoire but were chosen for their broad appeal to the Japanese public which is far more appreciative, if not also sophisticated, than the American one. They are played mostly moderate up-tempo, nothing brooding or introspective, and certainly energetic.
The marketing is standard Japanese fare - a cover emphasizing femininity (some covers from the 'Venus' company border on the salacious) - usually long-limbed high fashion models. It has nothing to do with the music. By western standards this approach is now-a-days almost quaint. The back cover has an amusing group photo I would caption "We know who did it but we're not telling." Incidentally, John Hebert's name is spelled wrong.
The sound - incredible, as are almost all Japanese jazz records. Audiophiles should acquire this CD if for no other reason. I could say the same for the Japanese recordings of Steve Kuhn. He is also dictated some strange material to play and, like Hersch, turns it into gold. Not to get off the topic, Kuhn is the other incredible musician on my Mount Olympus.
The music - I take it for granted that it will always be wonderful. On every track the harmonic ideas are dense yet tonal; there are references to the history of the jazz tradition; an innate knowledge of the lyrics meaning; technical ability that can take the music anywhere; that sound of surprise that awaits every new chorus. Hebert's name may be spelled wrong but he does everything else right. McPherson is among the many sensitive drummers playing today who have the technique to go along with his ideas. Amazing how he can be the rhythmic alter-ego to what Hersch is doing harmonically.
I have to end this review now because I'm getting exhausted trying to express my enthusiasm about what I heard. There are thousands of reasons to hear this music. Each note is one!