Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto)
Hersch’s third Palmetto album since 2008 confirms that the pianist’s strength, subtlety and imagination are not only intact but have gained in acuity. There is nothing in this recital to indicate that seven years ago he faced a medical crisis that threatened his mental powers. Recorded in the intimate surrounding of a small church, Solo appears nearly 22 years following Hersch’s first solo album, part of the Maybeck series. His wide expressive range covers the harmonic ingenuity and resourcefulness of his “Pastorale,” dedicated to Robert Schumann, and the potency he pours into Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud.” As at Maybeck in 1993, he applies his contrapuntal skill to the Monk classic, but with even greater energy and complexity. His variations on pieces by Jobim, Kern, Tizol, Joni Mitchell, and his own “Whirl,”—dedicated to the ballerina Suzanne Ferrell—are equally riveting.