The New York Times says Fred Hersch is a master who plays it his way: “Mr. Hersch has honed a solo piano concept second to none in jazz.” That’s it. Nothing else needs to be said. End of review. A listen to Fred Hersch Solo (Palmetto Records, 2015), and one can see the Times gets it right.
The album was recorded during an August 14, 2014, performance at Windham Civic Center Concert Hall in Windham, New York.
A solitary instrumentalist playing a song that lasts more than five minutes – to say nothing of 10 – can be challenging to a listener used to pieces like that being produced by orchestras or big bands with multiple soloists. Hersch, however, makes it work with the opening track, a Jobim medley, “Olha Maria / O Grande Amor.” At more than 12 and ½ minutes, the music keeps moving, even though the mood and pace change here and there. And the style straddles that line between symphonic and jazz, similar to the sounds that come out of the Gershwin playbook.