Sarabande (Sunnyside Records)

Fred Hersch

Re-released January 22, 2016

DownBeat Four-and-a-Half-Star Review




In around 1984, I began to do some playing with Charlie Haden – first at the late, lamented duo club Bradley’s and then with soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and Ed Blackwell on her album Mighty Lights. I also owned a recording studio in my loft in New York’s Soho district during that time. I had made a debut recording for the Concord label early in 1986 (with Marc Johnson and Joey Baron) and was looking to record my second project as a leader. I knew that Charlie was in town in December, 1986 so I put together two days in my studio to record Sarabande. I had written the composition “Child’s Song” already as a dedication to Charlie; its major key, folk-song melody and open improvisation section seemed to be fitting. Of course we had to record something by Ornette Coleman – the way Charlie was able to create spontaneous harmony was a marvel. And I brought in two new tunes for the session. “Cadences” is a humorous take on the II-V-I progression that is so important to Western music. The title track takes its name from the slow movements in all of the Bach keyboard suites; they are based on the Renaissance dance rhythm of the sarabande in a slow ¾ time signature. Though – unfortunately – this trio never played a live gig after the recording, I felt like the three of us danced through the music together in a very special way on this album. This re-issue is dedicated to Charlie Haden, one of the most important figures in jazz and a truly great artist.

Fred Hersch (May, 2015)

Track Listing:

1. I Have Dreamed (Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers) 05:36

2. Enfant (Ornette Coleman) 06:37

3. The Peacocks (Jimmy Rowles) 07:20

4. What Is This Thing Called Love? (Cole Porter) 05:57

5. Sarabande (Fred Hersch) 05:45

6. This Heart of Mine (Arthur Freed / Harry Warren) 05:33

7. Child’s Song (Fred Hersch) 04:37

8. Blue in Green (Miles Davis / Bill Evans) 04:55

9. Cadences (Fred Hersch) 05:07


Fred Hersch: piano

Charlie Haden: bass

Joey Baron: drums

Recorded December 4 – 5, 1986, at Classic Sound Studio, New York, NY

Engineer: A.T. Michael MacDonald

Assistant Engineer: Denise McGrath

Album Design: Cristopher Drukker

Photographer: Sandra Eisner

Producer: Fred Hersch

Assistant Producer: Jeff Williams

Executive Producer: François Zalacain


In his notes to this album, Fred Hersch recalls the two days that he, Charlie Haden and Joey Baron devoted to laying these tracks down more than 30 years ago. Then he adds a wistful reflection: “Though—unfortunately—this trio never played a live gig after the recording, I felt like the three of us danced through the music together in a very special way.” Perhaps a stronger word than “unfortunately” would be more appropriate—something along the lines of “tragically.” Haden, of course, is no longer with us. But in the peculiar world of recorded music, he will likely pop up again for some time to come, as he does here, to remind us of what a titanic talent he possessed. Haden was unique—a more pastoral Mingus—with an intensity tempered by his insight into the eloquence of silence. On Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “I Have Dreamed,” he conjures rather than locks down his groove. There isn’t a moment of walking bass on this track; instead, when Hersch stretches out a couple of verses, Haden stays on the dominant tone, plucking it just enough to keep the performance from floating away. Baron, meanwhile, shows how to stay busy and unobtrusive at the same time, scattering taps around his kit, turning up the heat and then again backing away, leaving the spell unbroken. The only questionable moment happens as they begin the closing number, “Cadences.” Hersch describes this one as “a humorous take on the II-V-I progression,” but even after what sounds like a fantastically misconceived slapstick intro, the trio finds a way to make the magic work. When they return to the goofball theme, it feels perfectly right.

Bob Doerschuk (DownBeat)