Fred Hersch & esperanza spalding - Alive At The Village Vanguard
(Palmetto Records, 2023)
Alive At The Village Vanguard is an extemporaneous conversation between two friends delivered as an extensive and expressive riff. It illustrates all of the gifts jazz provides us.
Recorded during an October residency in 2018, pianist Fred Hersch joined forces with vocalist (and bassist) esperanza spalding for some relaxing banter and stream-of-consciousness improvisation. The eight lengthy performances presented sound only lightly rehearsed, if at all, giving the presentation a spontaneous flair evident in the first selection, the Gershwin Brothers' "But Not For Me." Hersch introduces the piece with a fractured stride (think Fats Waller's Love Child with Bill Evans). Singer spalding presents the first verse (mostly) straight before falling into a completely improvised rap that descends into scat and then reascends into wordless singing. Hersch presents an angular, all-elbows, interlude demonstrating why he is a Vanguard favorite. And such is this recital. Hersch and spalding enjoyed themselves, their shared invention reaching a climax early on a diptych of Charlie Parker's "Little Red Shoes" and Bobby Troup's "Girl Talk," the latter on which Spalding goes all Virginia Wolfe.
But, the entire concert was not all just exquisite goofing off. The pair close the disc with a beautifully rendered performance of the Norma Winstone (with Hersch) composition "A Wish" (from Songs; Lullabies [Sunnyside, 2003]). Here the stars align and a proper coda is reached. Just beautiful.