The milo fine free jazz ensemble against the betrayers

    Motivations. There was (almost) enough money in the Shih Shih Wu Ai Records “account” to fund it. (Since the label’s inception in 1972, all proceeds, save for money paid back to associate producers, have been recycled into further publications.) From there, I wanted to document the sound of my instruments in a solo context within more Continue Reading »

    This is Fred Hersch’s tenth solo piano album, and it proves his nimble technique and restless imagination are undimmed, and more engrossing than ever. Everything about it bespeaks a loyalty to the mainstream: the choice of pieces (no Radiohead songs or rap numbers for Hersch), no reaching inside the innards of the piano in search of ‘atmospheric’ sounds, no venturing towards extremes of fortissimo or pianissimo. Familiar standards, treated within the familiar language of swing and bebop, stretched here and there towards Latin (there’s a lovely take on two Antônio Carlos Jobim songs) and classical music (Robert Schumann’s Pastorale) are all Hersch needs to create something extraordinary. Hersch tells us he was ‘in the zone’ the day this live recording was made, ‘a special place where everything is working – heart, mind and technique.’ This blessed state allowed him to do daring things, like the rhythmic gear-shifts in Monk’s In Walked Bud, with a sense of complete ease. Any time he appears to be tying himself in rhythmic knots, or skittering down a harmonic cul-de-sac, Hersch finds his way back to familiar territory with amusing Houdini-like ingenuity. Another pleasing feature of the CD is the way Hersch sidles up to a number via a long introduction, which in the case of Kern’s The Song is You is so ingenious it’s almost a disappointment when the song itself begins. There’s also an appealing honesty about the album, in the way Hersch stays faithful to a number's original nature. His oddly sinister version of Caravan, which tiptoes with delicate menace like a malevolent spider, is extraordinary partly because it brings out a lurking oddity in the piece itself, which we’d only half-noticed before. Hersch’s respect for his originals is actually a drawback in Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. He doesn’t want to compromise the pellucid wise innocence of the original, so his freedom of manoeuvre is curtailed; he can’t bring in those harmonic quirks that make the other numbers so fascinating. It’s the only mis-step in an album that everywhere else is full of quiet (and sometimes not-so-quiet) delights. ★★★★☆  IH

    Fellow conservative author Ben Shapiro is scheduled to speak Thursday at UC Berkeley. (RELATED: UC Berkeley Cuts Number Of Students Able To Hear Ben Shapiro By Half)

    Recorded in concert at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; March 28, 1975 (except “Quartet”, which was recorded in concert at the Lutheran Student Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN; April 13, 1975)

    The Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble Against The BetrayersThe Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble Against The BetrayersThe Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble Against The BetrayersThe Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble Against The Betrayers