Fred Hersch

Sunday Night At The Vanguard

When a new album by Fred Hersch meets your expectations, you’ll never find yourself saying, “same old, same old.” Rather, you’ll appreciate how astonishingly creative, profound and enthralling the 60-year-old pianist continues to be. That’s the case withSunday Night At The Vanguard, which presents Hersch performing with his trio at one of New York’s most celebrated jazz venues. It’s a familiar setting where Hersch finds himself in a familiar role: pushing the limits of refinement and making bold, fresh statements. Hersch’s trio with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson has recorded a series of excellent albums over the past seven years, including 2012’s Fred Hersch Trio–Alive At The Vanguard and 2014’s Grammy-nominated Floating. Recorded live on the evening of March 27, 2016, Sunday Night At The Vanguard takes the trio’s propensity for dramatic lyricism, harmonic exploration and rhythmic experimentation to new levels of poise and audacity. Highlights include the album’s lightly swinging opener “A Cockeyed Optimist,” a Rodgers and Hammerstein standard that the trio had only played a few times previously; “The Optimum Thing,” a Hersch contrafact on Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You” that showcases the trio’s drastically elastic sense of time; Paul McCartney’s “For No One,” its mood of quiet desperation amplified by the trio’s hushed, unhurried reading; Kenny Wheeler’s happy-dance “Everybody’s Song But My Own,” which Hersch played with the late trumpeter many times; and the shape-shifting “We See,” a Thelonious Monk tune that Hersch, somewhat surprisingly, has never recorded before. For more new Hersch-related material, watch for screenings of the feature-length film The Ballad of Fred Hersch—which recently premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina—and Hersch’s upcoming memoir (with the working title Good Things Happen Slowly) for Crown/Random House, due out next spring.

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