wed 22/05/2024

Album: Fred Hersch - Silent, Listening | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Fred Hersch - Silent, Listening

Album: Fred Hersch - Silent, Listening

A 'nocturnal' album - or is it just plain dark?

'An exploration of sombre resonances'

The previous solo piano solo album from Fred Hersch, one of the world’s great jazz pianists, was called Songs from Home, released on the New York indie jazz label Palmetto Records towards the end of 2020. Silent, Listening, released this month on ECM could not be more different in it moods and in its aims.

Songs from Home was recorded at the time of the pandemic at Hersch’s home in Pennsylvania. The pianist sought solace from a “loss of identity” (and loss of work) by recalling the songs which had been around during his youth. As a “child of the 60s” he remembers, “when the craft of songwriting was still sophisticated,” he found joy in songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “When I’m 64”. It was a completely uplifting album in which Hersch and the listener can take pleasure in the grace and beauty he brings to the tunes.

The new album, Silent, Listening, recorded under the supervision of Manfred Eicher in the studios of the Radio della Svizzera Italiana in Lugano, is much more experimental, meditative, atonal, and uncompromising. 

Hersch sets out his stall early: “Night Tide Light” is an exploration of sombre resonances from the lower end of the piano, making them last for a long time (especially at the end of the track) contrasting these sounds with some ethereal plucking of the front duplex of the strings rather than the speaking length. “The Wind”, the longest track at just over seven minutes, sounds like a spontaneous meditation with only occasionally an intermittent pulse. 

The exception to the mood is an exquisitely shaped take on the jazz standard “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise”, which starts with the melody in single notes from the right hand, which then gives way to a lightly tripping two-part invention for widely spread hands and a pointedly staccato left hand, leading to a central section in which the texture thickens before reverting to the unsupported melody of the opening.

Now that Keith Jarrett, a stalwart of the ECM label, has stopped playing, the character of ECM is changing. Maybe there is an element of ECM extending his legacy, who knows? The label first extended a – possibly overdue – welcome to Hersch last year for a duo album with Enrico Rava. This album is his second with the label, and there will apparently be more sides to Hersch’s art emerging from ECM, as the pianist approaches his 70th birthday next year.

Hersch has described the mood of much of Silent, Listening as "nocturnal"... perhaps that is more succinctly expressed as, quite simply, "dark". It is a matter of personal taste, but in the long run I know I will be returning more gladly and more often to the simpler pleasures of Songs from Home than to Silent.

It could not be more different in it moods and in its aims from his previous album 'Songs from Home'


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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