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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Album review: Fred Hersch - Songs From Home

Fred Hersch (solo piano)

At the beginning of ‘lockdown’ in March, jazz pianist extraordinaire Fred Hersch embarked on a series of solo performances known as his “Tune of the Day”.

Each afternoon for sixty days, Fred checked in with one song which was broadcast live from his home on Facebook. This effort became very important for many people around the world struggling with their daily structure within a Pandemic which was restricting everyone’s life.

Songs From Home collates eleven of these selections which are ‘covers’ of songs which are meaningful for Fred as he surveys his personal history now that he has reached sixty-five years, in a nostalgic way with warmth and personality. He felt that in order for him to be able to continue to play, he had to find a new way of connecting which would for the time being be a different ‘normal’ and a way of making a partial “living” from his music – as many other musicians are now doing.

Lerner and Loewe’s Wouldn’t It Be Loverly is a wistful evaluation which seems to point to a time to come when we can be together again (Yes indeed!). Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman has a rambling, free-flowing examination of an interesting chord sequence.

Jazz Standard After You’ve Gone is played in a jaunty, ‘stride’ manner appropriate to the style and times of 1918. All I Want by Joni Mitchel is a lengthy, thoughtful, evocative, out-of-tempo reading where Fred uses the whole keyboard to good effect. Cole Porter’s up-tempo Get Out Of Town bounces along with just a hint of menace in a two-handed jazzy style. West Virginia Rose/The Water Is Wide pairs the Hersch original with a well-known folk song in which Fred re-harmonises and changes key effectively. Sarabande another original from the pianist has a lovely chord structure which he develops imaginatively – the late Charlie Haden was on bass when this piece was first recorded on 1986.

Kenny Wheeler’s gorgeous Consolation (A Folk Song) follows in a graceful rendition which Fred gives this rarely heard composition total respect as he dips in and out of major/minor keys – a standout track. Rarely can Duke Ellington’s Solitude have been played with such simple, fragile beauty at such an apt moment in time when so many are suffering isolated conditions. Lennon/McCartney’s When I’m Sixty four is played in a care-free, dancing, music hall style in stride mode to end the album on a cheerful note.

Overall, a sincere attempt by Fred Hersch to bring warmth to our days, for us to stay well and walk in peace – admirable sentiments I think.

Dave Brownlow.

Available from Palmetto Records – PM2197. Release date November 6.

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