|photo by Steve J Sherman|
Also in September, Palmetto Records releases "Open Book", Hersch's 11th solo piano recording (and 12th recording for the label). Recorded live in concert in Seoul, South Korean (four separate nights), the album is both typical and typical of the pianist's output. Yes, there's a Thelonious Monk composition ("Eronel"), a piece by Antonio Carlos Jobim ("Zinger"), Benny Golson ("Whisper Not"), Billy Joel ("And So It Goes") plus three original pieces. One of those originals, "Through The Forest", is a fascinating 19:34 totally improvised piece; it's the centerpiece of the album and one of those performances that defies categorization. There is a darkness to the chords and a narrative quality to the melodies that shows a classical influence (perhaps Schumann, Debussy, Stravinsky, Gershwin) but what stands out most are the leaps from mood to mood the pianist takes. No surprise there is a forest on the album cover. The music is not dense, you can see through the fog and the trees are bare but the path forward can be detected. There is a freedom to being lost which can be scary but also pushes you to sharpen your senses, to call on different solutions to see your way through.
"Open Book" shows an artist at the height of his creative power without a sign of slacking off. It's one one of those albums that sounds good any time of day, scuba as early in the morning with the birds outside your window or late at night as you relax after a long day. No matter when you listen, this is a quite a good "book."
Fred Hersch is so busy right now with tours, teaching, and more; not only will the book and album come out in September but his "Leaves of Grass" project will be performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center (in the Appel Room) on September 15 and 16. For information, go to fredhersch.com.
Here's the Monk tune (co-credited to Sadik Hakim:
One is tempted to call his latest release, "Cub(an)ism" (Intakt Records) a "rite of passage". Solo piano recordings often bring to light an artist's influences, his upbringing and vision mashed into 10 songs, an hour's worth of explorations. It's been twenty years since Ortiz's previous solo album (unavailable in the U.S.) but, in those two decades, the experiences the pianist and composer has had through his studies and interactions gives this music its depth and scope.
For more information, go to www.aruan-ortiz.com.
Here's a track to whet your listening appetite:
from the School of Music at the Victorian College of the Arts (and later, a Ph. D in Philosophy). In 1994, he formed a trio with bassist Nick Haywood and drummer Allan Browne, recording two albums blending original material with jazz standards. In 2000, Stevens moved to Sydney where he formed a Trio with Mark Lau (bass) and Simon Barker (drums). Upon his return to Melbourne in 2002, he created his current trio of bassist Ben Robertson and drummer Dave Beck, an ensemble that has released four albums on Rufus.
Stevens has also issued four solo piano recordings for Rufus, beginning in 2002 with the introspective yet playful "Freehand." In May of this year, the label issued "Media Vita", an album of 12 pieces all composed in 2016, a leap year in which the composer challenged himself to write a new work every day. What should one expect from a project such as this? Honesty, for one. Exercises such as these expose the creative person in different ways. If he or she is up to the challenge, the realization that every day is different, that we as people are different, that this kind of "play"is also work. The intertwine of work and play is, for this writer, what makes this album so enjoyable. Composer Stevens gives us 12 stories from 12 different days in his year as a musician, teacher, parent, citizen, etc. and, in a way, asks us if we can see ourselves in the music.
"Media Vita", which translate to "half life" or, perhaps, "middle age", is by nature a culmination of the music Tim Stevens has created over the past two decades. Yet, also by the fact that the 12 songs come from 2016, it's also "new" music, statements as to where the composer is in his life. (Author's Note: the title is actually from the Latin phrase "Media vita in morte sumus" which translates to "In the midst of life we are in death.")
Sure, this album is personal, the best music always is. I have listened to this recording every day since it arrived a week ago and there is still more to discover, uncover, and enjoy!
For more information, go to www.timstevens.com.au.
Here's another track for your listening pleasure: