Leaves of Grass

Leaves of Grass

by Fred Hersch
     
 
Fred Hersch, one of jazz's most accomplished pianists, composers, and bandleaders, has never lacked for ambition. But with his adaptation of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, he's surely outdone himself. Setting a selection of the great American bard's masterwork to the forms and rhythms of jazz, and orchestrating it all for an augmented ensemble including horns,

Overview

Fred Hersch, one of jazz's most accomplished pianists, composers, and bandleaders, has never lacked for ambition. But with his adaptation of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, he's surely outdone himself. Setting a selection of the great American bard's masterwork to the forms and rhythms of jazz, and orchestrating it all for an augmented ensemble including horns, strings, and singers, Hersch triumphs in a project that had the potential to sink under the weight of its own pretensions. Through the vital contributions of singers Kate McGarry and Kurt Elling, himself a highly literate performer, Hersch brings Whitman's stirring odes to life, never stinting on the vitality and expressiveness that jazz imparts. The result is a high point of Hersch’s rewarding oeuvre, and one of the more winning marriages of jazz and poetry.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Matt Collar
Leaves of Grass finds pianist Fred Hersch and a stellar ensemble of musicians performing Walt Whitman's classic poetry to music. Hersch has long displayed an organic mix of Keith Jarrett's blissed-out focus, Bill Evans' epic patience, and Tommy Flanagan's straight-ahead sense of swing. Combine all that with a deft post-bop harmonicism, classically trained technique, and finally the epic poetry of Walt Whitman and you get this gorgeously cerebral album. Interestingly, Hersch has apple picked from various parts of Leaves of Grass, only including certain parts that truly spoke to him. The result is a semi-classical-sounding oratorio that makes room for spoken word sections, sections done in vocalized song, and outright improvisation. Giving life to Whitman's actual words are singers Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry, who instill each phrase with precision and eloquence. Similarly, Hersch's backing ensemble, including trumpeter Ralph Alessi, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, trombonist Mike Christianson, clarinetist Bruce Williamson, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer John Hollenbeck, helps deliver an atmospheric and nuanced backdrop for Whitman's poetry. Hersch's Leaves of Grass will certainly not be to everyone's taste -- poetry and jazz rarely are -- however, as an exercise in combining the two mediums, Hersch has not only succeeded, but also created one of the best albums of his career.
New York Times - Ben Ratliff
It is rare to find a long piece of jazz that really validates its bulk. The pianist and composer Fred Hersch has done it with "Leaves of Grass," an oratoriolike piece for octet and singers based on Walt Whitman texts. All the evidence of its craft is on the album version, just released by Palmetto.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/22/2005
Label:
Palmetto Records
UPC:
0753957210724
catalogNumber:
2107
Rank:
129616

Tracks

  1. Part 1: A Riddle Song (Overture)
  2. Part 1: Song of the Universal
  3. Part 1: Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
  4. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 1
  5. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 2
  6. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 3
  7. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 4
  8. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 5
  9. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 6
  10. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 7
  11. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 8
  12. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 9
  13. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 10
  14. Part 1: Song of Myself, Pt. 11
  15. Part 2: The Mystic Trumpeter
  16. Part 2: At the Close of the Day
  17. Part 2: To You/Perfections
  18. Part 2: The Sleepers
  19. Part 2: Spirit That Form'd This Scene/On the Beach at Night Alone ...
  20. Part 2: After the Dazzle of Day

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Fred Hersch   Primary Artist,Piano
Kate McGarry   Vocals,Voices,Group Member
Ralph Alessi   Trumpet,Flugelhorn,Group Member
Mike Christianson   Trombone,Group Member
Erik Friedlander   Cello,Group Member
Drew Gress   Bass
John Hollenbeck   Percussion,Drums,Group Member
Bruce Williamson   Clarinet,Bass Clarinet,Alto Saxophone,Bass Saxophone,Alto Clarinet,Group Member
Kurt Elling   Vocals,Voices,Group Member
Tony Malaby   Tenor Saxophone,Group Member

Technical Credits

Matt Balitsaris   Producer,Audio Production
Fred Hersch   Composer,Producer,Liner Notes,Audio Production,Text Selection
A.T. Michael MacDonald   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Jason Grotrian   Art Direction
Herschel Garfein   Text Selection

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