Fred Hersch has long been acclaimed for his work on many albums and live performances, in particular at New York’s Village Vanguard. The selections presented here were recorded more than 20 years ago at the club, although his debut there had come almost two decades earlier. At the time of this week-long engagement, Hersch, Gress and Rainey had been working together for five years and this is reflected in their mutual understanding.
The accompanying notes include brief comments by Hersch from which it appears that the music was recorded “for posterity with no plans for a release”. He also remarks that for the occasion he had a Steinway baby grand brought in as he was not “too fond of the Vanguard’s house piano”.
All three sets were recorded on the Friday night and from these Hersch has selected five standards, two of his own compositions, “Evanessence” and “Swamp Thang”, and one by Gress, “Andrew John”. To infer from the foregoing that this is music from the past would do this album a grave disservice. Stylistically speaking, everything Hersch does here is in the mainstream of jazz and that is one of its great strengths. Accessible yet adventurous, all these tracks can comfortably withstand repeated playing.
Hersch’s improvisations complement the intentions of the original composers and while his technical skill is of the highest order it is never used merely for show. Those who have come only recently to Hersch’s work (for example, his very successful Live in Europe album and 2018’s Grammy nominated Open Book), will find much to admire here. Coincident with this recommended release is Hersch’s highly praised memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly.
Easy to Love; My Funny Valentine; Three Little Words; Evanessence; Andrew John; I Wish I Knew; Swamp Thang; You Don’t Know What Love Is (58.22)
Hersch (p); Drew Gress (b); Tom Rainey (d). NYC. 18 July 1997.
Fred Hersch Productions