Fred Hersch Trio | Jazz Showcase | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Fred Hersch Trio Soundboard Recommended

When: Thu., Sept. 20, 8 & 10 p.m., Fri., Sept. 21, 8 & 10 p.m., Sat., Sept. 22, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sun., Sept. 23, 4, 8 & 10 p.m. 2012

The brand-new double CD Alive at the Vanguard (Palmetto) is the third live album pianist Fred Hersch has recorded at New York's illustrious Village Vanguard, so you could see its title as simply a way to distinguish it from its predecessors, Live at the Village Vanguard and Alone at the Vanguard. But the word "alive" is perhaps more resonant for Hersch than for most other musicians his age. In 2008 he fell into an AIDS-related coma for two months, after which he underwent a lengthy recuperation; every album he's released since then is a small miracle, and the new one, cut with his excellent trio (bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson) bristles with death-cheating vitality. Hersch's music is as demanding and distinctive as ever—he clearly trusts the intuitive rapport of this band, and they all belie the polished surfaces of their performances with quicksilver spontaneity. As usual for Hersch, the program mixes elegant originals, including "Tristesse" (a bittersweet ballad written for drummer Paul Motian) and "Dream of Monk" (a clever reworking of "Monk's Dream"), with delicately tweaked or reframed jazz classics—the band reharmonizes Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" to work it into a medley with the Miles Davis classic "Nardis" and slows down the usually brisk "The Song Is You" to make it a sparkling ballad. This kind of graceful mainstream jazz can sound placid if you don't listen closely, but Hébert, Hersch, and McPherson consistently push and pull on the sturdy architecture of each piece—and each time one player tosses in an improvised gesture, the others react instantaneously to keep everything in sync. This not only creates a wonderful tension but also gives you the exciting feeling that, from one moment to the next, almost anything could happen. —Peter Margasak

Price: $20-$25

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