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JAZZ REVIEWS : Hersch's Artistry Shines Through

August 08, 1994|ZAN STEWART

Fred Hersch owns that rare artistic commodity: a unique creative style. The pianist's personal jazz stance was displayed on Friday at the Jazz Bakery, where he performed with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey. His distinctive touch made his notes sound like gentle bells--or like walls shaking from a gust of wind.

"All the Things You Are" began with an unaccompanied piano intro that mimicked a baroque classical piece; the usually somber ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is" was taken at a snappy medium up-tempo, and "As Long as There's Music" came outfitted with a loping, rumba-ish beat.

Hersch, long called a man who works in the substantial afterglow of the great Bill Evans, is anything but a clone. His solos were uncommon: a pleasing amalgam of brief fragments that seemed bitten off, sweeping melodies that curved majestically and choppy, chattering block chords.

The New York-based trio's take on group interplay was also personal, as Gress and Rainey alternated between accompanying Hersch and offering ideas that made the unit seem to be involved in a serious but fun give-and-take discussion.

Lately receiving a lot of attention from his recent disclosure that he is both gay and HIV-positive (albeit AIDS asymptomatic), now is the time for Hersch to get some recognition for his artistry.

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