Floating (Palmetto Records)

Fred Hersch Trio

Released July 8, 2014

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Album 2015






This CD is sequenced the way we play a live set in a club or in concert. We often open with a standard, play some original music, the penultimate tune is a ballad from the American Popular Songbook – and we almost always end with a Monk tune. A few notes on the original compositions…

Floating is the magic sound-place where this trio lives a lot of the time – trusting each other so much that we can leave space. I used minimal musical materials in the piece and we just let the harmonic colors and the vibe of the tune do the rest. My mother is from West Virginia and she is named Florette. Her mother’s name was Roslyn so they both have floral names – West Virginia Rose is for them. John Hébert is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana so of course Home Fries has a New Orleans “second line” time feel. Far Away is dedicated to the beautiful and talented Israeli jazz pianist, Shimrit Shoshan, who passed away far too young at the age of 29. The town of Arcata is in Northern California, almost to Oregon, and is the spectacular place where the redwood forests meet the ocean; the tune is for bassist/composer/vocalist Esperanza Spalding who is from Oregon, has great energy and loves cool bass lines. A Speech to the Sea (and the cover photograph) was a site-specific art installation on the Sea of Japan by Finnish artist Maaria Wirkkala; we met at an artists’ residency in Umbria in the fall of 2013 and I found her work to be very inspiring. Kevin Hays is a great pianist and good friend – Autumn Haze is for him. — Fred Hersch Special Thanks to: John and Eric for being one of the great rhythm sections in the world and for approaching this music with energy and love; James Farber for great sound and being a complete pleasure to work with; Ryan at Oktaven Audio; Mark at Battery Studios; Arlan Harris; Missi and Robert at Palmetto for their continued support of my work; Ann Braithwaite; Mike Epstein; Akira Hirose and Fred’s Gang Tokyo; Maaria Wirkkala and Timo Torrika for the song title and the cover photograph; Lorraine and Deborah Gordon, Jed Eisenmann and the entire staff at the Village Vanguard; Dana, Diego and Paola and everybody at Civitella Raineri in Umbria for the priceless gift of a residency where this music was written; and to Scott Morgan for always being there.

Track Listing:

1. You & the Night & the Music (Howard Dietz) 5:41

(Grammy Nominee for Best Improvised Jazz Solo 2015)

2. Floating (Fred Hersch) 5:48

3. West Virginia Rose (Fred Hersch) 2:01

4. Home Fries (Fred Hersch) 5:52

5. Far Away (Fred Hersch) 6:34

6. Arcata (Fred Hersch) 6:27

7. A Speech to the Sea (Fred Hersch) 7:03

8. Autumn Haze (Fred Hersch) 6:05

9. If Ever I Would Leave You (Lerner) 6:11

10. Let’s Cool One (Thelonious Monk) 6:49


Fred Hersch: piano

John Hebert: bass

Eric McPherson: drums

Recorded at Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY

Produced by Fred Hersch

Engineer, mixed by James Farber

Mastered by Mark Wilder

Cover Photograph by Maaria Wirkkala, Timo Torikka


There’s no arguing the considerable merits of pianist Fred Hersch’s Alive at the Vanguard (Palmetto Records, 2012) or his Alone at the Vanguard (Palmetto Records, 2011), trio and solo efforts respectively, both recorded live at the legendary Village Vanguard, home of so many classic live sets. Hersch is at the height of his artistic powers in the place. It seems a consensus opinion that “Live” is better, an idea that has picked up credibility with the technical evolution resulting in very nearly studio quality sound for the documentation of concert recordings. No more murky sonics injected with those “tinkling ice, background chatter” crowd noises that can be heard on so many of the live offerings from yesteryear. 
But let’s not downplay the studio, especially in Hersch’s case. His Whirl (Palmetto Records 2010) isn’t Hersch’s most lauded recording—that accolade probably goes to his ambitious larger ensemble offering Leaves of Grass (Palmetto Records, 2005). But Whirl is a studio piano trio recording put together to perfection to simulate a tight live set. And Floating is more of that, with the same trio – Hersch joined by John Hebert on bass and drummer Eric McPherson – going even deep in that mode of operation.  The trio opens with a touchstone, the familiar “You and the Night and the Music,” laid down in an unfamiliar way—spiced up and rollicking. Saucy. A version to bring a smile, that gives way to the title tune, a Hersch original. The sound is a fluid, frictionless momentum that does indeed evoke the sensation of weightlessness, of notes floating on clouds. Music played on the moon. 
Hersch is a marvelous tune-smith, writing in a variety of styles and moods, while maintaining the cohesion of the “set.” “West Virginia Rose,” dedicated to Hersch’s mother and grandmother, plays with Appalachian themes. “Home Fries” slides down south to Louisiana with its second line New Orleans feel, and is dedicated to bassist Hebert, who hails from the Baton Rouge. The trio really lets go and lets it rip on the tune, before moving into the wistful, delicately drawn “Far Away,” a piece that Hersch wrote for the late Israeli pianist Shimrit Shoshan. The pianist’s touch here is deft and delicate beside McPherson’s subtle brushwork and Hebert’s steady, dreamy patience on the bass. 
Three more distinctive originals are played out before the trio shifts back to the familiar, with a gorgeous, understated version of Lerner and Lowes’ “If Ever I Would Leave You,” and then closing with Thelonious Monk’s “Let’s Cool One,” sounding refined and playful and devil-may-care on this perfect close out to a superb piano trio set.

Dan McClenaghan (AllAboutJazz)