You can't help but love the way pianist Fred Hersch just jumps into what would otherwise be a mid-section vivacity in most any other song work-ups. He doesn't waste a second, laying out an elegant, energetic, half atonal, sideways dual string of lines that grab the ears and brain right from the very first note. Then, within that cut, You & the Night & the Music, the way he completely splits his hands up as the piece progresses makes one swear there's simul-synching, but there isn't. Pretty damned amazing. I can't help but think that if Phillip Glass decided to throw his hands up in the air and just swing while retaining that glorious serial backscatter he excels in, this is exactly what would emerge.
That all changes, though, when the title cut, Floating, replaces the opener, a meditation in judicious pastorality, beautiful, measured, a gentle foray of sonic poetry rescued from the hustle and bustle of the workaday. Aracata becomes a gambol in sharp contrast, related to Corea's Spain, complicated and involved but always moving forward, looping around itself, playful and serious simultaneously, yet always imbued with elan. In fact, the more I listen to Floating, the more I ask myself, how did all this energy and ultra-precision get into the disc so readily? And there's an answer: the trio spent a week at the Village Vanguard in order get muscle memory and brainworks to their sharpest points before heading into the studio. That obviously worked like a charm.
Hersch has an impressive pedigree. Always studious, he nonetheless dropped out of college not long after hearing Coltrane and others. He hit the bandstand for a year and a half, then, oriented now to what he really wanted in life, returned to academe, this time the New England Conservatory, to earn a Batchelor of Music degree. From there, he was swiftly prized as a choice bandmate, playing and recording with Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Gary Burton, Joe Henderson, Jane Ira Bloom, and many other estimables. The guy knows how things come together in ensemble, but it's in the more intimate formats where he really finds his voice, and 2012's live trio twofer, Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at Vanguard, copped him France's highest jazz honor, the Grand Prix du Disque.The accompaniment of bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson is strikingly atmospheric. So well do they fade into the background and set the perimeters of each environment that you almost don't know they're there until Hersch steps back, suddenly realizing that, all along, they've worked right into the piano's presence while underscoring it. Not a second's attention is taken away from Hersch's consummate artistry and not a breeze is lost in ambience. Those cats, too, know what's what and where it should go. The promo lit argues that the pianist "pushe[s] at the limits of lyricism and temporal fluidity", and that's as apt an encapsulation as you'll ever come across. Fred Hersch posesses an unerring sense of just where all the permutative possibilities lie and isn't shy about dragging them up from the depths. What he crafts from all that and everything else around him is often boggling, leaves the listener and critic at a loss for words, but even this consummate skill is itself deceptive because so much of his work is also perfectly in confluence with the great tradition of jazz. Suffice it to say that if you miss this gent, you're missing a lot.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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