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Fred Hersch, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh


You get a lot of music in a Fred Hersch solo recital. And I don't just mean a lot of notes. As a classically trained pianist who studied pop and rock music assiduously in his teens before finding his metier on the New York jazz scene, Hersch has a varied frame of reference he can call upon and he uses it to great effect. Making just his second appearance in Scotland – he played in Inverness 12 or so years ago – he divided this concert into two distinct parts: original compositions and a set of things he hoped we might recognise.

His own pieces drew on wide-ranging influences, including a certain Chick Corea-like rhapsodising on Duet and ragtime-meets-systems-music on the appropriately named Stuttering. A tribute to Thelonious Monk was especially intriguing as Hersch dropped in and out of a melody closely related to Monk's own Crepuscule With Nellie, and on the beautifully realised Pastorale, which, he acknowledged, owed much to his youthful studies of Robert Schumann; there was a hint of an influence that Hersch might have passed on to a student, Brad Mehldau, that then found its way on to Mehldau's recent masterpiece Highway Rider.

Hersch is an immensely thoughtful improviser with a superbly subtle touch and his interpretations of well-known jazz, pop, folk and film themes showed the same qualities, not least his shadowy, harmonically inventive and lovely take on the Beatles's For No One. He can also swing hard, though, and his reading of Benny Golson's Whisper Not, even without the missing personnel, gave every impression of listening to a jazz quartet barrelling through a favourite standard.

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