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Fred Hersch: Night and the Music

Fred Hersch

It is surprising that Night and the Music is Fred Hersch’s first studio piano-trio album since the early 1990s. But for Hersch, there is not a large difference between recording in a club and recording in a studio. He is such an impeccable player that his live albums sound refined and complete. And he is so committed to impulsive creativity that his studio albums sound uncommonly spontaneous. Seven of the 10 tracks here are first takes.

As an interpreter of standards, Hersch is magic. “How Deep Is the Ocean” is a ballad that jazz players often speed up. Hersch returns it to its pensive essence in a very slow single-note central stream from which his own ideas spill and ripple. “Galaxy Fragment” is Hersch’s moody prologue that becomes “You and the Night and the Music.” Like “Ocean,” it is a fine line elaborated in revelatory additional detail. When he plays Monk (“Boo Boo’s Birthday,” “Misterioso”), he concentrates on the lyrical core of Monk’s melodies rather than all the hard angles over which Monk careens to get there.

Pieces like “Heartland” reveal Hersch’s poetic depth as a composer and also reveal that, like all the best piano trios, this one has a fully articulate second solo voice here in Drew Gress.

Originally Published