Live at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch Trio 

Live at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto)

Soon after it opened in 1935, Max Gordon's bohemian New York hot spot, the Village Vanguard, became the world's window into the newborn soul of a uniquely American art form -- jazz. For pianist Fred Hersch, a prominent fixture of the New York scene for the past 25 years and one of the club's regularly featured veterans, the Vanguard is both hallowed ground and home. On Live at the Village Vanguard, the 101st live recording to emerge from the venue's wedge-shaped confines, Hersch honors the club's legacy while celebrating his own.

The set opens with a pointillistic deconstruction of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing," but Hersch penned the majority of the featured cuts. From the mournful strains of "At the Close of the Day" to the loping strides of "Days Gone By," Hersch and company construct dense layers of rhythm and harmony that shift with both subtlety and dramatic flair. Nasheet Waits' setwork perfectly complements Hersch's penchant for sudden changes of mood; bassist Drew Gress remains the group's relentlessly driving taskmaster. Setting the tone from the bench, Hersch carefully peers into each selection before offering his own bold perspective.

Culled from a three-night engagement at the club last May, Live at the Village Vanguard bathes in the sensual intimacy of the renowned room's warm acoustics, a reminder that even though only three musicians were onstage, countless other spirits were certainly at play.

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