June 25, 2024


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CD review: Fred Hersch and the WDR Big Band – Begin Again 2019: Video, CD cover

Begin Again, Hersch’s new Palmetto release featuring the Cologne-based WDR Big Band, arranged and conducted by six-time Grammy winner Vince Mendoza, serves as both an expertly curated overview of the pianist’s oeuvre and a singular new entry in his expansive discography.

The album features nine of Hersch’s original compositions, plucked from throughout his various projects and preferred formats, including one previously unrecorded piece. Mendoza’s impeccable orchestrationsrobust yet refined, essential yet understatedmanage to bolster Hersch’s striking gifts for melody and expressivity while also showcasing the remarkable abilities of the Grammy-winning WDR band, which DownBeat recently described as “one of Europe’s finest large jazz ensembles.” In Ellingtonian fashion, Mendoza has through experience gained a deep understanding of the WDR’s members as distinctive voices (not to mention masterful doublers), and he applies these timbres in brilliantly coloristic ways. On Begin Again, that also means granting well-deserved solo opportunities to thoughtfully expressive players like the alto saxophonists Johan Hörlén and Karolina Strassmayer, the tenor saxophonist Paul Heller, the trumpeters Ruud Breuls and Andy Haderer, the trombonists Ludwig Nuss and Andy Hunter, and the drummer Hans Dekker.


1. Begin Again 08:23
2. Song Without Words, No. 2: Ballad 05:16
3. Havana 06:33
4. Out Someplace (Blues For Matthew Shepard) 05:26
5. Pastorale 05:18
6. Rain Waltz 07:39
7. The Big Easy 08:05
8. Forward Motion 03:54
9. The Orb (For Scott) 05:11

Fred Hersch: composer, piano; Vince Mendoza: arranger, conductor; Wim Both: trumpet; Rob Bruynen: trumpet; Andy Haderer: trumpet; Ruud Breuls: trumpet; Johan Horlen: alto sax; Karolina Strassmayer: alto sax; Olivier Peters: tenor sax; Paul Heller: tenor sax; Jens Neufang: baritone sax; Ludwig Nuss: trombone; Andrea Andreoli: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone; Mattis Cederberg: bass trombone, tuba; Paul Shigihara: guitar; John Goldsby: bass; Hans Dekker: drums.


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