If age and experience set pianist Fred Hersch and guitarist Julian Lage apart, superior musicianship and mutual respect bind them together. On their live duet recording, Free Flying, Hersch, a seasoned player and composer recognized as one of the most creative jazz personalities of his generation, finds common ground with Lage, a prenaturally gifted player whose astonishing command of his instrument belies his age. With a mood as spirited as it is lyrical, Free Flying -- recorded at the New York club Kitano in February of 2013 - highlights the intuitive give-and-take that announces itself as an inspired musical meeting of two exceptional players who trust each other completely. The CD will be released on September 3, 2013 on the Palmetto label.
Hersch and Lage concentrate on six of the pianist's previously recorded originals including "Songs Without Words #3 & #4"; the tribute compositions, "Gravity's Pull (for Mary Joe Salter)," "Free Flying (for Egberto Gismonti)," "Heartland (for Art Lande)" and "Down Home (for Bill Frisell)"; the jazz standards, "Monk's Dream" and "Beatrice" (by Sam Rivers), as well as the previously unrecorded Hersch original, "Stealthiness (for Jim Hall)." Each provides the two with sufficient room to exhibit the conversational flow of melodic ideas and rhythmic play that distinguishes their unique partnership.
Although duets may be second nature to Hersch - he's recorded numerous one-on-one albums with many vocalists and instrumentalists, and has featured duo performances on his own recordings, including the acclaimed Fred Hersch & Friends: The Duo Album (which included an alliance with Jim Hall) - Hersch had only once before recorded a full album partnered with a guitarist: Songs We Know, his 1998 encounter with Bill Frisell. As it turns out, Lage had been assiduously absorbing
that album since he was an eight-year-old guitar wunderkind. Conversant with Hersch's playing, Lage - who, by the time he met the pianist in 2010, had already achieved considerable attention for his work with Gary Burton and others - began playing occasional duo gigs with him at Hersch's invitation.
"Julian is a very deep and sensitive player for his age," says Hersch. "He's done his homework and knows the jazz language in a very deep way. He's got a special sound that's both solid and transparent, and our sounds are very compatible; he's very open to the way I play. He's a wonderful young man and it is a pleasure working with him."
Lage, for his part, also had experience working in musical duo settings, including recording with mandolin virtuoso David Grisman and pianist Taylor Eigsti. "The duo is my favorite setting," says Lage. "And Fred has always knocked me out. His playing always has such a strong sense of narrative; it's sophisticated, so well developed and beautifully conveyed. When I play with him it's like having the best seat in the house!"
"Fred is open to whatever I do," continues Lage. "It can feel like jumping into a sandbox and going crazy. I try to avoid the tendency to match what he is doing. I often find that some of the most creative playing comes when I oppose what Fred has just played. I try to think of what would be expected and then not do that."
Such attentiveness to remaining in the moment and reacting accordingly is one of the prime delights of Free Flying. As Hersch puts it, "We play the tune before us. We try to stay in the world that the tune puts us in."
Although Hersch has his hands in a multitude of musical projects, and Lage is similarly busy, the duo will continue. "We fully intend to keep this going as a working project, " says Hersch.
November of 2013 will find the duo playing Northeast club engagements including:
o Thursday, November 21st - Scullers, Boston, MA
o Friday-Sunday, November 22nd-24th - Blues Alley, Washington, DC
o Monday-Wednesday, November 25th-27th - The Blue Note, NYC