When Fred Hersch played a solo concert in Windham, New York, in August of last year, he had no idea he was creating an album. But it was a particularly good night; he was, as he says in the liner notes, "in the zone," and when he heard the recording, he decided to release it as "Solo." It was an excellent decision coming on the heels of his 60th birthday. The album leaves no doubt that Hersch is at the top of his game.
"Solo" begins with an exquisite medley of two tunes by Antonio Carlos Jobim: "Olha Maria" and "O Grande Amor." Hersch continues with a nicely syncopated and re-harmonized rendition of Juan Tizol's "Caravan" and a gorgeous original tune, "Pastorale," dedicated to Robert Schumann. There are great versions of Jerome Kern's "The Song Is You," and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and another, appropriately named, original, "Whirl." But the album's peak is Hersch's treatment of Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud." He takes it on a journey that reaches all the way back to stride and barrelhouse piano, with every chorus a new adventure.