Hersch's music is almost always described as "beautiful," but that hardly does it justice. Although he has prodigious technique and a sophisticated knowledge of harmony and compositional practice, his playing and group concepts are oriented towards the expression of feelings, and everything else is subservient to that cause. This is well marked in his latest recording, a solo recital of songs by the Brazilian composer and performer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Many of them have been performed too many times, and one would not expect much new from such a recording, but Hersch does away with the lighthearted fluff that often characterizes bossa nova; he sings out the melodies with unsentimental beauty but at the same time reinvigorates the music with North American rhythmic muscle. He reimagines the tunes, exploiting their harmonic subtlety, and sculpts notes with a delicate pianistic touch in a manner instantly recognizable as his own. Fred Hersch returns for a rare solo performance at Kerrytown Concert House on May 6.
[Originally published in May, 2010.]