Online since August 2002

Complex yet listenable

From the Spring 2004 issue.

The Fred Hersch Trio + 2
The Fred Hersch Trio + 2
By Fred Hersch

Palmetto Records: 2004

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Pianist Fred Hersch has titled this set aptly: "The Fred Hersch Trio + 2," with that "+ 2" part being the addition of saxophonist Tony Malaby and trumpeter Ralph Alessi to Hersch's longtime piano trio that includes Drew Gless on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums (the group responsible for last year's marvelous – and much top ten listed – "Live at the Village Vanguard").

So it's a quintet, right? Like those standard hard bop Blue Note sets, where the horns blow in on the melody before everybody gets a chance to improvise a solo on the theme before they congeal to nail the melody down once again for the closing?

That's not the way Hersch arranges things here. The pianist uses the horns throughout more as orchestral elements, weavers of sonic tapestries behind the main voice of the leader. Unusual tapestries that that offer up moments of grandeur (""Black Dog Pays a Visit") and interludes of edgy antagonism between keyboard and horns. And throw in sheer delicate beauty – the only non-Hersch original on the disc, the Lennon/McCartney ballad "And I Love Her," gets slowed down to a gorgeously introspective tempo.

Hersch plays the main roll here – I've heard him compared to late Bill Evans, though to these ears he's closer to Chick Corea. But he really has developed his own style that swings seamlessly between the classical, subtly delicate mode and edgily percussive modernistic sound.

And he's found two fine foils in the hornmen – Malaby's guttural, got-nothing-to-lose saxophone rants and Alessi's brash and intense trumpet lines.

A complex and ambitious project that begs many listenings.

Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.

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