Recent listening, current

Friday, April 11, 2014

191. Fred Hersch - Alone at the Vanguard (2011)

Hersch plays in his characteristically slick and lyrical style in this collection of live, solo recordings. The gently meandering set is just over an hour long but was culled from an entire week of performances at the Vanguard in  2010. Hersch's back catalog of superb trio records has given him all the leeway that could be expected from the trio format, but alone, he is free to wander a little farther from the yard, in both time and route, as with Sonny Rollins' "Doxy," or the elegant salute to Thelonious Monk's "Work." In the absence of the drums and bass, he develops sweeping melodic arcs in each piece, and displays refined senses of harmony and dynamics. With several numbers he tips his hat to inspiration from friends and figures like Robert Schumann, Bill Frisell, and Lee Konitz. My favorite piece is the disc's opener that I know as a favorite Frank Sinatra song (although it has been covered countless times since). "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" is rendered so poignantly as to touch the emotional depth achieved by Sinatra on the 1955 album.

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