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Revelatory covers (7th in series): Fred redeems Billy

For many years Fred Hersch has been an inspired interpreter of two of the greatest songbooks –  Thelonious Monk’s and Tom (Antonio Carlos) Jobim’s.  On his new album Fred does right by both. He also covers someone whose songbook I long have loathed…


Blessed with a beautifully natural sound quality, Open Book finds Fred alone, playing a particularly responsive piano, in South Korea.

Cut 4 alone more than justifies purchase; just shy of 20 minutes, Through the forest is the first such lengthy, entirely spontaneous creation on a Fred Hersch album.

Otherwise, 5 of the 6 other cuts are what one expects from Fred Hersch – his own compositions, plus deeply respectful yet highly creative-improvisatory-probing versions of works by his favourite jazz composers.

Click the relevant hyperlink for each title in this post, and you will discover the interesting story behind each song’s existence.

An Australian “supermodel” sparked the final one, but Eronel – “Lenore”, backwards – has a much more surprising backstory than And So it Goes ; scroll down the page to the “Eronel” headline, once the Eronel hyperlink has brought you to “Outtakes!”

Jobim’s Zingaroalso known as Portrait in Black and White – has been covered by countless players and singers.

I have not heard a lovelier version:


Monk was not the sole composer of Eronel; allegedly, he added just one (crucial) note, but Monk claimed full credit for an already-named song co-authored by Sadik Hakim and Idrees Sulieman.

That said, Monk’s is the songbook to which Fred is most oft-drawn:


As a longtime admirer of all three of them, my delight with Fred’s umpteenth admirable interpretations of Tom and Thelonious was an expected pleasure.

Whether fairly or otherwise, I have never admired Billy Joel.

He is an “artist” who has always sent my phoniness-detector into overdrive.

She’s always a woman to me is – to these ears at least – gutwrenchingly bad, smug masculist/misogynist drivel.

So, I was hugely surprised – and not delighted – to see that Fred’s new album concludes with one of Billy’s songs.

I was even more surprised – and delighted – when I heard cut 7.

“Tender”, “spare”, “refined”, “sublime” are adjectives I have never associated with Billy Joel, but they do apply to Fred’s wordless version of And So It Goes:


The album – vinyl as well as CD – has a capable Australian distributor.

Published in 'western' musics instrumental music music


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