Alive at the Vanguard

The Fred Hersch Trio

Pianist Hersch, like Jerry Garcia and Pat Martino, had to relearn to play his instrument after a serious illness. That he did so successfully is evident on this two-record set featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. They truly function as a trio, not as leader and sidemen, covering styles from Afro-Cuban (Hersch’s “Havana”) to bebop (Charlie Parker’s “Segment”). They navigate through cascading and receding levels of intensity in “Tristesse” and settle into a deep blues groove on Sonny Rollins’ “Doxy.” Their transition from a ballad version of “The Song is You” into the skewed Monk-isms of “Played Twice” sounds not only natural but virtually inevitable. Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” elegantly moves into Miles’ “Nardis,” and Hersch veers into more outside playing on his Ornette dedication, “Sartorial.” Only complaint: just two hours.