Sunday, September 23, 2012

In review--Alive & Well, Thank You


Fred Hersch Trio
Alive at the Vanguard
Palmetto Records

This fantastic jazz trio featuring Fred Hersch (piano), John Hébert (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums) delivers an extraordinary live performance on the double-CD set Alive at the Vanguard.  I actually received this CD back in July and have already listened to the CDs several times.  However, three weeks ago when I set out to review the recording, CD #1 broke in half in my player.  I finally received the replacement.  Imagine that this performance is so hot that it breaks the CD in half.  Now, that sizzles and so do the tracks on the album which include mostly originals by Hersch topped with standards by Jule Styne (I Fall In Love Too Easily), Sonny Rollins (Doxy), Charlie Parker (Segment), Ornette Colman (Lonely Woman/Nardis) and two by Hammerstein.

The instrumentals flow well and delight in the manner of standard jazz, but possess more bite, especially with the edgy Segment and improvisation that often leads away and back to the center of the songs.  The song titles would imply that the music follows an impressionist vein and it does leave tangible images in the wake, not easy for instrumental songs to do.  The opener of CD #1, Havana implies Cuban music with the ostinato rhythm played on the piano and the drums implying a clave beat.  Rising, Falling feels as melancholic as a cold autumn day where as, the staccato romp Segment portrays piano sarcasm.  CD #2 offers more of the same, except that the musicians take the energy level up a few notches.  Jackalope with a wow-factor could easily leave a listener breathless with its rapid arpeggios.  Followed by The Wind/Moon and Sand which glides along at a romantic pace, I could see this song highlighting a dinner quiet and reflective dinner party.

Why did such a wonderful recording need to wait two months for a review? Timing is everything I suppose and some music needs time to brew, and simmer, until the moment feels right.  And one thing Alive at the Vanguard does well is to capture the moment.

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