|Fred Hersch — Open Book (Sep 8 2017)|
Fred Hersch — Open Book (Sep 8 2017) οοο
Born: Oct 21, 1955
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Album release: Sep 8 2017
Record Label: Palmetto Records
01 The Orb 6:26
02 Whisper Not 6:28
03 Zingaro 7:58
04 Through the Forest 19:35
05 Plainsong 4:41
06 Eronel 5:40
07 And So It Goes 5:58
℗ 2017 Palmetto Records
οοο Fred Hersch: piano
Cormac Larkin, Thu, Sep 7, 2017, 09:40; Score: *****
οοο It’s nearly ten years since pianist Fred Hersch was forced to relearn his instrument (documented in his 2011 DVD My Coma Dreams) but if anything, he just keeps getting better. Admired by his fellow musicians, revered by his former students (including Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson), still perhaps a little under~rated by the audience at large, Hersch is the musician’s musician, a deep and thoughtful artist who strikes that elusive balance between soul and skill every time he touches the keyboard. This magnificent solo recording is aptly named, a revelatory experience, almost indecent in its emotional truth, and proof — if it were needed — that music, particularly in the hands of a poet like Hersch, can express what words cannot even approach.
By DAN MCCLENAGHAN, August 17, 2017. Score: *****
οοο In the aftermath of his coma and very possible demise back in 2008, pianist Fred Hersch blossomed from a status as a first rate jazz pianist into the rarified air of one of the handful of top practitioners of that art form. A series of post~illness albums, from Whirl (2010), to Alone At The Vanguard (2011) to Floating (2014), Solo (2015) and Sunday Night At the Vanguard (2016), all on Palmetto Records, are all solo and trio outings that reveal a heightened artistic clarity and unabashed vulnerability, alongside a deeper emotive approach, this in comparison to his uniformly excellent, but perhaps more cerebral output before his struggle with serious health problems.
οοο Now we have Open Book, Hersch’s eleventh solo piano outing.
οοο Intimacy is a hallmark of Hersch’s music, and “The Orb,” the set’s opener, taken from Hersch’s autobiographical music/theater piece, My Coma Dreams, is the tenderest, loveliest of love songs, a look at a paramour through, with justification it seems, rose~colored glasses. “Whisper Not,” Benny Golson’s classic tune, takes things into a turn of the playful, via crisp, prancing piano notes singing over a serious and assertive left hand. Hersch visits an old friend, Antonio Carlo Jobim, with “Zingaro,” a sublime reverie.
οοο The centerpiece, “Through The Forest,” is something unheard of on record by Hersch. It’s a nineteen minutes~plus, stream~of~consciousness, improvised in~the~moment masterpiece. An ebb and flow dreamscape of sorts — the most fragile of delicacies and the most sacred and quiet moments slipped in beside emphatic percussive energy — music as enchanting as anything the pianist has ever created.
οοο Then in walks Monk. Hersch includes a Thelonious Monk tune in most every set, most every recording. “Eronel” is a spritely interpretation by Hersch, who immerses himself the challenging music deeper than most anybody, peppering the stride~side with sparkling, water~splashing~off~the~rocks sounds, rolling into jagged eddies, leading into the closer, Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” solemn, simple, honest, beautiful.
οοο Honesty — another hallmark of Hersch’s art.
οοο This is a recording that makes it seem as though Fred Hersch is the finest jazz pianist in the world. That’s an impossible assertion, of course. There are a dozen, maybe more pianists who have achieved this level artistry. But for now, with Open Book, he can wear that title.
About Fred Hersch
οοο An acclaimed jazz pianist, composer, and educator, Fred Hersch is a supremely gifted soloist with a sophisticated, yet unself~conscious approach to playing standards and his own original compositions. As a teacher, he counts both Brad Mehldau and the Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson as former students. As a player, his nuanced style, influenced by such giants as Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans, and Oscar Peterson, has garnered him multiple Grammy nominations, and made him a benchmark for modern jazz. Openly gay and diagnosed HIV~positive at age 30, Hersch is a vocal proponent for gay rights and AIDS research and education.
οοο Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1955, Hersch began playing classical piano at age four and was dabbling in composing before the age of ten. However, it was while attending Grinnell College in Iowa that he first became interested in jazz. He dropped out of college and spent some time gigging around Cincinnati before enrolling at the New England Conservatory, where he studied with pianist and composer Jaki Byard. After graduating with honors in 1977, Hersch moved to New York City where he began playing nightly, paying his dues as a sideman. He also made his recording debut during this period, appearing on such albums as Art Farmer’s Yama and Billy Harper’s Awakening, both in 1979.
οοο From 1980 to 1986, Hersch taught at the New England Conservatory. During this time, he began leading his own trio and working as a sideman with such luminaries as Chris Connor, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, Toots Thielemans, Eddie Daniels, and others. He made his album debut as leader in 1984 with the trio album Horizons, featuring bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron. That same year, he paired with clarinetist Jane Ira Bloom for As One; the first of many collaborations between the duo. The '80s remained a busy period for the pianist, who recorded extensively with others, and released his own albums, including 1986’s Sarabande, 1988’s E.T.C., and 1989’s Heartsongs.
οοο In 1993, Hersch came out as gay, announcing the information in his hometown during a benefit performance for AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati. At the same time, he also revealed that he had been receiving treatment for AIDS since his diagnoses with the disease in 1984. From the ‘90s onward, Hersch has remained a tireless proponent for both gay rights and AIDS research and education. He has produced benefit recordings, performed in numerous charity concerts, and given keynote addresses at international medical conferences.
οοο The ‘90s were also the start of a more prolific creative period for Hersch, who earned praise for such releases as 1990’s Evanessence: Tribute to Bill Evans, 1992’s Dancing in the Dark, and 1994’s I Never Told You: Fred Hersch Plays Johnny Mandel. Beginning with 1995’s Plays Billy Strayhorn, Hersch built a sturdy set of albums on Nonesuch Records, many of them paying tribute to his influences, including 1996’s Plays Rodgers & Hammerstein and 1997’s Thelonious Monk~themed Thelonious. Similarly, 1998’s Songs We Know found him investigating many of his favorite compositions alongside guitarist Bill Frisell.
οοο In the 2000s, Hersch remained quite active, releasing several highly ambitious works including the three~disc Songs Without Words in 2001 and the Walt Whitman~inspired project Leaves of Grass, which featured contributions from vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry in 2005. For 2007’s Night & the Music, Hersch returned to a more intimate, less conceptual trio setting.
οοο In 2008, Hersch developed HIV~induced dementia, which left him in a coma for two months. Upon awaking, he underwent extensive rehabilitation to help regain his ability to play piano. Following his recovery, he released the bossa nova~themed solo piano effort Fred Hersch Plays Jobim in 2009. The trio recording Whirl appeared on Palmetto in 2010. Also in 2010, Hersch was the subject of a major article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine entitled Giant Steps: The Survival of a Great Jazz Pianist, by David Hadju.
οοο Hersch then delivered two companion live albums with the 2011 solo piano date Alone at the Vanguard, followed a year later by the Grammy~nominated trio album Alive at the Vanguard. 2013 also proved to be a fruitful year as he appeared on no less than three albums: Fun House with pianist Benoit Delbecq, Only Many with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, and Free Flying, a collaboration with guitarist Julian Lage.
οοο In 2014, Hersch received yet another Grammy nomination, this time for his trio album Floating. That same year he released the DVD My Coma Dreams, a 2011 performance of his multimedia stage show based on his coma experience. The live album Solo, recorded at the Windham Civic Center Concert Hall in Windham, New York, followed in 2015. In 2016, Hersch was the subject of directors Charlotte Lagarde and Carrie Lozano’s documentary film The Ballad of Fred Hersch. The following year he delivered Open Book, which featured a series of solo performances recorded at the JCC Art Center Concert Hall in Seoul, South Korea. ~ Matt Collar
|Fred Hersch — Open Book (Sep 8 2017)|