Hersch and spalding Live at the Village Vanguard on LP!
Pianist/composer Fred Hersch and vocalist/bassist/songwriter esperanza spalding (stylized in all lower case) can both be counted among the most acclaimed and inventive artists in modern jazz. The Village Vanguard is the music's most revered venue, having played host to countless legendary musicians and beloved live recordings. The duo and the club converge for a magical performance on Alive at the Village Vanguard, a rare opportunity for listeners to enjoy the singular and thrilling collaboration between two marquee jazz artists at the top of their game.
Alive at the Village Vanguard showcases the astonishing chemistry shared by these two master musicians, who bring out distinctive aspects in each other's playing. Hersch and spalding have convened for only a handful of New York City performances since their first meeting in 2013 during the pianist's annual duo series at the Jazz Standard. In that limited time, the pair has developed a wholly personal approach, not only in the annals of piano-voice duets but in their own already-highly individual practices.
Taking the stage with no set arrangements and only a vague sense of the repertoire they'll explore, the dauntless pair delights in playing without a safety net. "This recording sounds like you're in the best seat in the Vanguard for a very live experience," says Hersch. "You can really feel the vitality of the room, of the audience, and of our interplay. We decided on the word Alive for the album title as you can really feel the intimacy and energy of the performances."
Alive at the Village Vanguard marks Hersch's sixth recording from the storied club, where he's been invited to headline three weeks annually for many years. The album also vividly spotlights Hersch's stunning sensitivity and engagement as a duo partner; in recent years, he's worked in a similar setting with such incredible musicians as guitarists Julian Lage and Bill Frisell, clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen, saxophonist Miguel Zenón, and trumpet maestro Enrico Rava.
"Playing with Fred feels like we're in a sandbox," spalding says. "He takes his devotion to the music as serious as life and death, but once we start playing, it's just fun. I like to live on the edge in my music, but I find myself trying things that I usually wouldn't when I play with him, finding new spaces to explore in the realm of improvised lyrics."
Always a determined original in her own projects, spalding rarely sings standards, and her approach here is unique to her partnership with Hersch. She's revealed on this outing as not just a phenomenal scat singer but a charming and imaginative improvisational storyteller. The Gershwins' "But Not for Me" becomes a witty, poetic extemporization on the lyric itself, examining the changes in language represented by the original's sometimes archaic terminology. Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup's chauvinistic ditty "Girl Talk" comes under barbed scrutiny from not only a feminist but also an eco-conscious perspective.
"I don't think anybody's heard esperanza sing like this," Hersch says. "She's a fearless vocalist, and is one of the biggest talents I know. She's got a huge reach in her intellectual knowledge and is a big thinker in both her projects and in her outlook."