The Fred Hersch Trio is without a doubt one of the finest groups working in what you might call the post-Bill-Evans tradition today. The recent double CD Alive at the Vanguard (Palmetto 2159) affirms that with some great improvising-tunesmithing.
The Evans trio legacy includes the idea of the trio as a fully integrated entity, not piano solos with bass and drums relegated to mere accompaniment. The former is most certainly the case here with John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. They play an important part in the outcome, with solo and group interactions the order of the day.
Fred of course is a fully developed, finessed artist-pianist with good harmonic and melodic ideas continually flowing from his fingers. He can be impressionistic on the ballads and he is robust and individual on the more up swingers.
The program of originals benefits from a sprinkling of standards done with some care and attention for getting to the essential core of things. The originals have plenty of variety and cut across the contemporary scene with style and a thoughtful quality.
Alive at the Vanguard captures the trio at their very best. The double CD gives listeners a bird's eye earful of what they were doing at the club last February. It's essential listening for what the piano trio is today.