This unique album stands in a class all by itself: an artful and artsy set of original compositions by pianist Fred Hersch evoking musical images of an America gone by, perhaps from the early 1900s to the 1950s, when life was more innocent than it is today. Distinctly jazz, it incorporates classical and other musical structures and allusions.
Recorded live at the Jazz Standard, all the pieces are Hersch originals, manifesting his ongoing references to the full spectrum of American music. The notion of a Pocket Orchestra is a good one for such nostalgic music. The phrase has connotations of an old-fashioned music box, as well as a time before the advent of recorded sound, when music was made at home with a pianist at the center, and perhaps a singer and an instrumentalist joining in.
The absence of the usual double-bass in a jazz group gives Hersch an opportunity for a wider variation of musical styles, making for a pocket to be filled in musically. The personnel give skillful performances and interact well with one another. In addition to Hersch on piano, Australian-born Jo Lawry is a very sophisticated singer who virtually serves as a co-instrumentalist, and whether or not there is an Australian cultural influence there is something to consider. Trumpeter Ralph Alessi renders ingenious improvisations, while percussionist Richie Barshay backs up the group effectively, adding a few touches of his own using the standard drum set and ornamentation.
5 Star review on AllAboutJazz
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