Enrico Rava & Fred Hersch: The Song Is You  

In Hersch's ECM debut, the pianist and flugelhorn player explore the standards and two originals as well as making a joint improvisation


Both Enrico Rava and Fred Hersch have form when it comes to duos, Rava with Ran Blake and Stefano Bollani, Hersch with Julian Lage and Ralph Alessi. But while Rava has recorded with ECM since 1970, this is Hersch’s long-overdue debut for the label.

The two make a perfect pairing, even if they had played only a handful of Italian dates together before recording. Hersch remarked that “Enrico doesn’t feel like he has to be soloing. We make things together. . . The best duo partnerships are the ones where you don’t have to talk about it too much. You just play.”

On this set, the two share their love of jazz’s history by exploring the standards, with each also contributing one song – Rava’s The Trial, Hersch’s Child’s Song – and a joint improvisation. Initially tentative on Jobim’s Retrato Em Branco E Preto, as if still getting to know each other, they push themselves some more on Improvisation, Hersch’s dark notes and rumbling chords echoed by Rava’s high-register minimal responses.

The Bassman–Washington standard I’m Getting Sentimental Over You is delivered in conversational mood, as each player answers the other with an almost immediate response. More intimate is The Song Is You, Hersch at his most light-touch romantic, Rava quietly and insistently impressive. Child’s Song starts nursery-rhyme simple but Hersch darkens the mood as it progresses, Rava responding in kind, while The Trial is a brief, knotty interchange.

Hersch ends almost all of his albums with a Monk song, but here we have two. After its famous peg-leg intro, Misterioso gets thoroughly dismantled, Hersch stretching the main melody almost to breaking point before Rava delivers a wonderfully thoughtful and engrossing solo that ends with a fine acapella flourish.

Finally, Hersch slides obliquely into Round Midnight and plays it as a heartfelt solo until the end. It’s a fine way to close an outstanding album, and I for one look forward to further outings from this most sympathetic of duos.

Retrato Em Banco E Preto; Improvisation; I’m Getting Sentimental Over You; The Song Is You; Child’s Song; The Trial; Misterioso; Round Midnight (42.49)
Rava (flh); Hersch (p). Auditorio Stelio Moro, Lugano, Switzerland, November 2021.
ECM 2746