Fred Hersch & Esparanza Spalding – Alive at the Village Vanguard

15 Jan

Alive at the Village Vanguard does exactly what you would want; it places you right in the middle of the club. This is a recording of a live show at Village Vanguard and it manages to hold all of the energy of a live performance just to drop it on unsuspecting listeners. More importantly, it delivers the abundant charm of the two performers.

In particular, “Girl Talk” expertly recontextualizes an old, chauvinistic standard, refutes the original and reclaims the space with tremendous intelligence and humor. Spalding’s conversations with the crowd are both confident and fun and she interacts with the crowd throughout to great effect. In particular, they add a lot of charm to the already fun “Little Suede Shoes”

It’s not the most challenging album, however. Neither Spalding nor Hersch does much to complicate the music and the piano solos tend to move too slowly. Spalding does some great tonal work through the album though and Hersch plays excellent counter-point to her there.

It’s also just much more fun than your typical jazz release and much more approachable as well. If you’re looking for a pleasant evening with a couple of very talented, very likable performers, it’s hard to find something better than this.

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