Fred Hersch's Whirl
It doesn’t have quite the fluency or exuberance of Let Yourself Go or In Amsterdam, my two favorite Hersch albums (both recorded live, in 1998 and 2003, respectively), but Whirl is a lovely and riveting piece of work all the same.
His phrases are shorter, sometimes a bit more clipped, than in the past, but he still has his fleet touch, and his deep, if subtle, swing, which string the phrases together in a seamless stream. He navigates a knotty Paul Motian tune, “Blue Midnight,” with aplomb, and tackles his late mentor Jaki Byard’s boppish “Mrs. Parker of K.C.,” with wit and energy.
As usual, he shines most richly with the romantic ballads, especially in this case two originals, “Snow Is Falling” and “Still Here,” the latter an elegiac piece that he wrote for Wayne Shorter but that resonates more shiveringly since, clearly, it’s also become a song about Hersch himself.
James Farber recorded and mixed the disc, so the sound is, as usual, very good: the piano percussive and liquid, the bass plucky and tuneful, the drums a little bit compressed but sizzly (in a good way) and deep on the soundstage.