he last Fred Hersch album reviewed in these pages was a live duo album with Julian Lage called Free Flying released last summer. The year before it was the pianist’s trio found here of double bassist John Hébert, and drummer Eric McPherson but on that occasion it was a live 2-CD recording released as Alive at the Vanguard.
Floating was recorded in a Yonkers studio and features a mix of material beginning with the much-loved standard ‘You and the Night and the Music’ followed by the title track, a Hersch original, and then another original tune dedicated to the pianist’s mother and grandmother called ‘West Virginia Rose’. There are a number of other dedicatees in the original tune selections of Floating including Esperanza Spalding and pianist Shimrit Shoshan, with the standard ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’ and Monk’s ‘Let’s Cool One’ then closing the set.
It’s a classic piano trio sound, quite romantic at times but not at all old fashioned that nonetheless sits at a sharp remove from some streams of jazz piano trios these days that tend to draw on dance music or rock for inspiration. There’s none of those cues here, the trio managing to step back a little from the heat of the fire that blazes away when they record live, stoking the embers at certain points. The album is sequenced, Hersch says, the way the trio play a live set in a club or in concert, and with contrapuntal passages on the opening Dietz/Schwartz standard and a shimmering poise to the title track, a bounce in the step enlivens ‘Home Fries’ allowing Hersch’s considerable pianistic imagination to run free, while later on ‘Arcata’ Hersch moves more into a Chick Corea-like space before the lovely calm of ‘A Speech to the Sea’ descends. Yet another gem from Hersch with that extra polish the studio situation more than provides for. SG Released on 8 July