Pianist Fred Hersch had recently arisen from a two-month coma, and had spent the better part of a year ravaged by AIDS-related illnesses, when he recorded Whirl, a trio album featuring bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson. Despite Hersch’s medical setbacks, there’s nothing weak or infirm about Whirl. With original compositions and a smattering of standards, the album taps directly into a well of sonic consistency and emotional variety.
Whirl opens with the standard “You’re My Everything,” on which Hersch begins improvising before introducing the composed melody. His lines are equally tinged with coyness, elation, and hints of haunted caution, which introduce the main themes of the album as a whole. Throughout the song, he plays linearly, as a horn player or vocalist might, emphasizing melody over pianistic virtuosity.
The following track, “Snow is Falling,” is a Hersch original, and explores the mysterious, slightly haunted mood of which the previous track provides a taste. At certain moments, the crystalline and hushed musical content is packed with snowy imagery. Out mystery advances sheer joy, only to return to dark reflection.
On “Blue Midnight,” McPherson abandons his skittering grooves, and uses mallets to coax pulseless rumbles out of his cymbals and toms. Hebert takes a more active role, supporting Hersch’s penchant gestures with agitated musings of his own. His warm and dark tone is depthless, a resonant counter to Hersch’s nimble upper-register chimes.
“Skipping” evokes untainted joy, and McPherson and Hersch elevate each other to new degrees of lightness. Each beat is accompanied by a feeling of breathlessness, a welcome sense of uncertainty as to whether the airy jaunts will land where they are expected to. Hebert expertly avoids providing too firm a ground, the richness of his sound nonetheless weightless.
Whirl covers broad emotional expanses by limiting itself to the interplay of three common moods. By limiting itself in such a way, it is capable of striking a variety of feelings that are yet related, and to simultaneously achieve a consistent and unified whole. With such a firm foundation, the music is free to explore the ephemeral and imperfect joy of life.
1.You,re My Everything2.Snow Is Falling
6.When Your Lover Has Gone
9.Mrs.Parker Of K.C.
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