Fred Hersch Trio | Jazz Showcase | Jazz | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Thu., Dec. 12, 8 & 10 p.m., Fri., Dec. 13, 8 & 10 p.m., Sat., Dec. 14, 8 & 10 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 15, 4, 8 & 10 p.m. 2013
Price: $25-$30, $45 for VIP.
Elegantly lyrical pianist Fred Hersch rolls into town this week with his favorite working band, bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson. The piano trio is the format he most often uses—and the one that best enables him to work subversively within the mainstream tradition, packing subtle harmonic surprises and rhythmic reinventions into the most familiar standards—but it’s hardly the only kind of setting where he excels. This year Hersch has released two very different albums that show off his ability to interact meticulously and at the highest level with his bandmates. Everybody does a lot of tightrope walking on Fun House (Songlines), a haunting double-trio session with French pianist Benoît Delbecq, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel, and drummer Steve Argüelles (Hersch is accompanied by bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry Hemingway). Delbecq wrote nearly all the music, but though his prepared piano and electronic manipulations take center stage, Hersch is just as invested, reacting to his fellow keyboardist with precision and empathy—their give-and-take is refined and subtle, producing a chamberlike sound that’s startling in its clarity and lack of clutter. The terse, meditative compositions are harmonically ambiguous and drift like clouds—Hemingway and Argüelles do a marvelous job reinforcing the latter effect—but Hersch helps ground and focus them. Free Flying (Palmetto), where Hersch duets with guitarist Julian Lage, is a decidedly crisper and more melodic outing, and in this case Hersch composed most of the material—some of these cozy, crystalline pieces he originally wrote for guitarists Bill Frisell, Egberto Gismonti, and Jim Hall, as well as for pianist Art Lande. But even the album’s relatively familiar covers (it includes treatments of the Sam Rivers standard “Beatrice” and Monk’s “Monk’s Dream”) privilege the rapport between him and Lage over the tune itself. When Hersch plays with Hebert and McPherson, they stick more closely to conventional roles, but the relationships they’ve cultivated within their trio are just as nuanced as anything on Free Flying. —Peter Margasak

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