Fred Hersch reminded why he really does belong among the greats

Fred Hersch reminded why he really does belong among the greats

Fred Hersch reminded why he really does belong among the greats with an incredible show at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, writes Alan O'Riordan.

Fred Hersch is probably the least-heralded of contemporary greats, but great he truly is, and an extraordinary evening at the Everyman left you in no doubt about that.

Across more than 40 albums, the New York-based piano player has created a body of work that connects with the likes of Thelonius Monk, Bill Evans and Ornette Coleman, but without ever sounding tired or nostalgic.

Fred Hersch
Fred Hersch

Perhaps he’s kept out of the spotlight because of his unfashionably lyrical, even gentle, and always gorgeous, approach to playing. But what matter? He took the Cork audience on a wonderful journey.

We set off via Kenny Wheeler’s Everybody’s Song But My Own. A glorious working of Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile soon follows. Hersch takes a back seat for one of his own compositions, Serpentine, allowing his long-time rhythm section, John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums, to shine.

Hebert’s deep, dark, warm tone overlaid by McPherson’s skittering brushwork. And on it went, Hersch often opening with lines of astonishing grace, before seeming to turn tunes in on themselves, sending notes tumbling into each other towards a surprising resolution.

Perhaps the most exquisite interlude is a solo version of Russ Freeman’s The Wind. Keith Jarrett is also a fan of this piece, and Hersch is every bit his equal in terms of sensitivity and expressiveness. Hersch likes to finish with a Monk tune, and so he did here. Or tried to.

A standing ovation brought him back out, for an encore of Wichita Lineman. And that still wasn’t enough. A second encore of Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child was almost too poignant to bear: concentrating the ephemeral, ungraspable nature of what we had just witnessed, and, when you considered Hersch’s past serious health problems, of life itself.

Hersch’s trio was part of a double-bill that served up more than three hours of great music. Linley Hamilton’s tight quintet opened, in a fine exhibition of the rude health of Irish jazz.

More on this topic

Jazz Festival gives Cork cash boost of €35mJazz Festival gives Cork cash boost of €35m

Trio give Triskel a masterclass in jazzTrio give Triskel a masterclass in jazz

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas roll out the Motown classics at Cork Jazz FestMartha Reeves and the Vandellas roll out the Motown classics at Cork Jazz Fest

Swing, strings and hip-hop in nod to legends at the Guinness Cork Jazz FestivalSwing, strings and hip-hop in nod to legends at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival

More in this Section

Michelle Darmody: Comforting desserts for a cold winter’s eveningMichelle Darmody: Comforting desserts for a cold winter’s evening

Working Life: 'I catch the quiet 6:15 train, a place to gather my thoughts and plan my day'Working Life: 'I catch the quiet 6:15 train, a place to gather my thoughts and plan my day'

Natural Health: 'Every winter I get a nasty sinus infection'Natural Health: 'Every winter I get a nasty sinus infection'

Jamie Oliver: ‘About 3/10 of our family meals are idyllic – that’s normal’Jamie Oliver: ‘About 3/10 of our family meals are idyllic – that’s normal’


Latest Showbiz

All Together Now have announced Iggy Pop will be headlining the festival's third year for his first Irish performance in 12 years.Iggy Pop's first Irish performance in 12 years will be headlining All Together Now 2020

British boxer Tyson Fury has said he wants to train with Ireland's own Conor McGregor.Tyson Fury: 'I want to train with Conor McGregor'

The star said he accepted the break-out role of Edward Cullen because he thought the film was ‘very indie’.Robert Pattinson explains why he thought Twilight was a ‘weird’ story

The biggest night in music will take place in January.Host announced for 2020 Grammy Awards

More From The Irish Examiner