Fred Hersch: Insensatez




Fred Hersch (piano)


Fred Hersch Plays Jobim (Sunnyside 1223)

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Fred Hersch (piano).

Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim


Recorded: Stamford, CT, no date given (CD released in 2009)


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

If a young pianist asked my advice about recording a solo album of Jobim tunes, I would strongly suggest the choice of any other composer—Scriabin, Zez Confrey, Billy Joel—in lieu of one more painful bossa nova nostalgia trip. Don't get me wrong, I am one of Mr. Jobim's most devoted fans, and he makes it into my short list of the five greatest songwriters of the 20th century. But his music has been butchered by so many cocktail pianists, wedding reception bands, and maple-syrup-in-their-veins arrangers that it is almost impossible to approach his songs with fresh ears any more. I remember living in Firenze years ago and trying to imagine what Ghiberti's doors to the Baptistry might like if you removed all the accumulated soot, tarnish and gunk. Jobim's songs are the same, but it would take a master to find the pristine beauty below the layers of noise piled atop them.

Fred Hersch is that master. Here he tackles one of the more familiar Jobim songs (often recorded under its English title "How Insensitive") and unearths the saudade below all the sludge. He brings to bear on this song his acute analytical mind, but while still retaining the emotional temperature of this melancholy reminiscence of a love affair gone bad. There is much to admire here: the harmonic movement, Mr. Hersch's touch, his phrasing. But the holistic effect (as so often is the case with Hersch) is more powerful than a mere list of ingredients can evoke. Any pianist who wants to study how an artist of depth salvages an over-played song should check out this CD, and this track in particular.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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