May 18, 2024

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CD review: Fred Hersch Trio ’97 – The Village Vanguard 2018: Video

Pianist Fred Hersch paid some dues at the Village Vanguard, sitting in as a sideman there from 1979 on, playing with the bands of saxophonist Joe Henderson, trumpeter Art Farmer, alto sax man Lee Konitz, and bassist Ron Carter. But he waited until 1997 to make his debut as a leader.

That debut was captured on tape, and surfaces now, years later, with the Fred Hersch Trio ’97’s @ The Village Vanguard. Hersch’s subsequent history as a leader at the Village Vanguard also runs deep, with Live at the Vanguard (2003), Alive at the Vanguard (2003), Sunday Night at the Vanguard (2016) and a solo set, Alone at the Vanguard (2011). All of these are exceptional piano jazz recordings. @ The Village Vanguard reveals how his trio artistry sounded back in the beginning.

Joined by bassist Drew Gress and Tom Rainey—fine sidemen and leaders themselves—this is the only outing that catches this early-career Hersch trio playing live, with a set that includes the group’s takes on the standards (“Easy To Love,” “My Funny Valentine,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is”) and a batch of Hersch originals, including the sparkling and spritely “Evanessence,” a nod to pianist Bill Evans, to whom Hersch, early on, was often compared.

Hersch’s artistry—like that of Evan’s (like that of most seasoned and dynamic artists)—has taken on a remarkable depth and focus of vision over the years. And like Evans, it started at a stunningly high level with this particular trio, featured also on a pair of Chesky Records recordings, Dancing In The Dark (1993) and Plays (1994).

Hersch has always been a particularly nuanced and versatile pianist—capable of propulsive drive interspersed with breathtaking delicacy and pure, time-stopping beauty—documented at the very beginning of his trio recording work, with @ The Village Vanguard.

1 Easy to Love (9:49)
2 My Funny Valentine (10:06)
3 Three Little Words (6:00)
4 Evanessence (5:46)
5 Andrew John (7:36)
6 I Wish I Knew (5:47)
7 Swamp Thang (5:44)
8 You Don’t Know What Love Is (7:28)

Recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City on July 18, 1997.

Palmetto Records

Bass – Drew Gress
Drums – Tom Rainey
Piano – Fred Hersch 

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