In 2008, pianist Fred Hersch began to deal with bad reactions from the medications he was taking for his AIDS-related issues. In the beginning of that year, he became psychotic and paranoid, holing up in his New York City apartment. The doctors changed his medications and, by the end of March, he was feeling better. He was able to record with his Pocket Orchestra in May but several weeks after that gig, the pianist fell into a coma where he remained for over two months. His recovery took the better part of eight months, many of which were spent away from the piano. When he was feeling better, he organized a new trio, an ensemble that features bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. That trio celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2019 and its label, Palmetto Records, has decided to release the Trio's albums in a six-CD box set titled "10 Years / 6 Discs".
Over the decade, I have reviewed five of the six albums released here, the only not covered was the Trio's debut "Whirl." That album, recorded in January of 2010 (less than year after Mr. Hersch began playing again), set the tone for the next decade (save for the fact there's not a piece by Thelonious Monk, one of the pianist's musical mentors). Yet, one can hear the wonderful interactions of the rhythm section, the wonderful and adventurous solos from the pianist that hint at classical music – he has such a fine left hand and Hébert's attentive and melodic bass work gives the leader plenty of inventive space. Pay attention to McPherson as well, his sensitivity and swing, how he "decorates" ballads with his brush work, ands intelligent use of cymbals.
Photo: John Abbott
Many writers compare Fred Hersch to Bill Evans and/or Keith Jarrett; yet, I've been listening to Mr. Hersch since his early albums since his early albums with Art Farmer and Jane Ira Bloom. One can hear that he is a close listener, attentive to the needs of the person leading the group or acting an equal partner in a duo setting. Plus he can swing with the best of them (there are times he reminds this writer of Hank Jones – perhaps it's his ability to play songs from different genres and make them his own, whatever, they are both such intelligent musicians.
"10 Years / 6 Discs" is the perfect gift for someone who wants to hear contemporary jazz at its finest. there's not a weak moment among the albums and few, if any cliches. It's very hard to pick one album over the other. The Fred Hersch Trio is one of the best "piano trios" on the scene today and one always hopes to hear mote from them. Buy the album and go see them live. In fact, no matter who Fred Hersch is playing with (or even playing solo), go see him – his music will make you smile, sigh, give you hope, and make you move your feet.