Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fred Hersch plays Jobim

Fred Hersch, a US jazz piano player, released last year an album that fascinated me. The album is entitled Fred Hersch plays Jobim. Although not a pure Choro album, Fred Hersch dedicated it to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, the great Brazilian composer. In the liner notes Fred tells that he is a great fan of chorinhos - this fascinating for Choro music is to be heard in some of the tunes - enough reason to introduce you to this album.
Fred Hersch is one of those jazz piano players who fascinate me. Although he plays and records since the early 1980s I learned about him and his music only a few years ago, thanks to the documentary Let Yourself Goes - The lives of Fred Hersch - a fascinating portrait of a gifted musician in his fight agains his HIV-infection. Last year I heard him in a concert with his Fred Hersch Trio + 2 at the North Sea Jazz Festival, in Rotterdam. For this performance Fred had invited two horn players, Ralph Alessi on trumpet and flugelhorn and Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone. The photos used in this contribution are made, with a simple digital camera, during this concert.

Fred Hersch ( North Sea Jazz Festival ( Rotterdam) July 2009 ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Last year Fred released a solo album dedicated to Antonio Carlos Jobim. But few people won't have ever heard the music of Jobim. His bossa nova styled songs like the Girl from Ipanema, Desafinado or Meditation, to list some well known themes, are well known and where all part of the pop charts of the 1960s. The bossa nova, a mix of Brazilian music and jazz, to keep it simply, was introduced by musicians like Astrud Gilberto, Charlie Byrd, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. I told about this period in a contribution about Eliane Elias' tribute to 50 years Bossa Nova In the liner notes Fred tells that he was introduced to the Bossa Nova by a local guitar player Kenny Poole. This men died a few years ago and I found a fragment where you can here him playing.

He learned to play the Brazilian rhythms by drummer Edison Machado. He was one of the first to transfer the rhythms of the Bossa Nova, the Samba, and the Baiao to the drum set. He met Edison at a gig at the New York club Cachaca: I was lucky to be taught on the bandstand by a real master: Edison Machado. During Fred's career he visited Brasil three times and played with Leny Andrade, the great Brazilian singer who often played with the Sergo Mendes band Sexteto Bossa Rio. In Brazil Fred Hersch learned more about Choro. I am a huge fan of chorinhos - the equivalent of Brazilian ragtime - and have learned many of them and written some of my own. Fred Hersch at the North Sea Jazz Festival - Rotterdam ( July 2009) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Around 1870 in Rio de Janeiro ( Brazil) a new musical style emerged that would become one of the most creative musical manifestations in Brazil. Choro was primarily an instrumental form, and to a North American ear it might sound a little like a small Dixieland jazz combo playing with strange rhythms, extreme melodic leaps, unexpected modulations, and occasional breakneck tempos. Interestingly, choro's development in Brazil slightly predated the rise of ragtime and jazz in North America. Choro and jazz were both characterized in part by their use of improvisation and African-derived musical elements. ( source: Choro: Improvisation South of New Orleans in The Billboard Book of Brazilian Music by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha p. 151 )

Fred Hersch at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam ( July 2009) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

In the album Fred Hersch plays Jobim Fred didn't want to play only the well known tunes, already listed above, but also some of the lesser known Jobim compositions. One of those less known tunes is O Grande Amor, which he learned from Stan Getz, who recorded it several times ( like in Sweet Rain, March 1967). I played briefly with Stan Getz in the mid-1980s and it was from him that I learned O Grande Amor. It is now one of the tunes I like the best. It starts almost like a classical Debussy-etude before it developed into a more swinging rhythmical theme. Fred Hersch was allowed to make a choice from the hundreds of compositions archived in the Jobim estate. This album contains nine tracks - all tunes were composed by Jobim, but Fred's version is not a copy of the originals. He made a selection of lesser known tunes like Por Toda Minha Vida and Luiza and some more known themes like Meditacao, Insensatez and Desafinado. The latter surprises as it contains rhythms and harmonies you don't expect in this well known theme - Fred says that he was inspired by the Brazilian rhythms he had heard. His interpretation of the slow tunes are more like a meditation - almost introverted, like Bill Evans would have played it, but the more rhythmical up-tempo tunes like Desafinado and in Brigas Nunca Mais, one of the tunes that surprised me too, the rhythms and harmonies seem to be inspired by the Choro music. On this tune, Hersch is accompanied by percussionist Jamey Haddad. This album was recorded at Ambient Studio in Stamford CT and Hersch plays on a well tuned and great sounding Steinway piano. Love to share with you the tune Insensatez as played by Hersch on this album, dedicated to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Reading through so much of his music reinforced my belief that Jobim is one of the great composers of the 20th century regardless of genre. His bittersweet harmonies, fabulous melodies and superb craftsmanship are evident in everything he writes. ( Fred Hersch in the liner notes of Fred Hersch plays Jobim)

Ths contribution is also posted at the Keep Swinging blog.

Hans Koert


Blogger Jo said...

Thank you, Hans, for this great contribution about a remarkable piano player paying tribute to Jobim. Jobim of course was rooted in choro and had his inspiration from people like Pixinguinha and choro, but he found his own way and was a leading figure of 'the new vawe', the bossa nova, during the 1960s. - Thanks also for posting the great video feat. guitar player Kenny Poole, amazing!

17 June, 2010  
Anonymous Nuhman said...

gud works
thanks for this articles
keep it up

05 July, 2010  

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