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Friday, October 25, 2013

Fred Hersch and Julian Lage - Free Flying (Palmetto Records, 2013) ****

By Paul Acquaro

One of my favorite Bill Frisell albums is a duo recording he did with pianist Fred Hersch called Songs We Know from way back in 1998. Lyrical and spare, it breathed a life into tunes like 'It May as Well be Spring' that I found captivating. Well, fast forward a decade and a half and Hersch has released another excellent piano-guitar duo recording with the mindbogglingly young and accomplished guitarist Julian Lage. 

I recently caught Lage playing with Gary Burton and trading solos with Larry Coryell. Before that, I heard him with Nels Cline in a duo setting. Each time Lage's playing was a little different - I'd even venture to say his work with Burton's new quartet showed a more adventurous side of his playing then his work with Cline, at the time. Here with Hersch, on this live recording, he is both supportive and fiery, finding the exact moments to shadow the piano and then emerge with ideas both lyrical and rhythmic.

The recording features several of the pianist's original songs, often featuring Ken Vandermark like dedications in their titles to musician's whose style they channel. 'Down Home (for Bill Frisell) builds off American Folk and blues like idioms while 'Free Flying (for Egberto Gismonti)' mixes a fine blend of South American inspired rythmns with some ebulliently cascading melodies. Throughout, Hersh's phrasing and note choices are fantastic. They close the album with a joyful interpretation of 'Monk's Dream'.

The duo skirts the edges of classical and jazz with remarkable fluidity. Thier interaction makes for a genuinely enjoyable listen. While not exactly 'free-jazz', Free Flying is one too good to pass over!