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Fred Hersch Trio: Alive at the Vanguard

In an interview for JazzTimes in 2003, Fred Hersch talked about why he loves the Village Vanguard: “When you play very, very quietly, it has a presence throughout the entire room. There’s a certain kind of stillness, a hush, that you don’t get anywhere else.” But this new two-CD set, his third recording at the Vanguard, is not hushed. It is audacious and extravagant.

Hersch went through a devastating health crisis in 2008, and was in a coma for several months. His full recovery is a story of extraordinary courage. The title of this album, and the vital music it contains, must be understood as his ringing, joyous, belligerent celebration of the miraculous fact that he is, in every sense, alive. “Havana” (one of seven new originals) starts as loose, infectious clave energy, then keeps getting denser and wilder. “Segment” (Charlie Parker’s only composition in a minor key) goes through a similar progression, from a quick theme like an outburst of elation, escalating to ecstasy. “Jackalope” is tight funk set free to run amok.

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