The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the jazz community, leaving countless musicians to face an uncertain future.
Four-time Grammy Award-winning visionary vocalist, bassist and songwriter
Esperanza Spalding and fifteen-time Grammy nominee, iconic pianist/ composer
Fred Hersch have committed to do their part to help fellow musicians in need with the limited release of Esperanza Spalding & Fred Hersch: Live at the Village Vanguard – Rough Mix EP, a five-song EP captured during the duo’s 2018 run at the iconic New York City nightclub. The EP is a live rough mix with no edits.
The EP will be offered exclusively for download through Bandcamp, with all proceeds benefitting the Jazz Foundation of America’s Covid 19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund.
Released today the scintillating performance will be available only through the month of June for a minimum of $17, with additional donations encouraged on a pay-what-you-wish basis.
Live at the Village Vanguard provides a rare opportunity for listeners to enjoy this singular and thrilling collaboration. Spalding and Hersch have convened for only a handful of NYC performances since their first meeting in 2013. In that limited time the pair has developed a wholly unique approach, not only in the annals of piano-voice duets but in their own already distinctive practices.
“This recording feels like you’ve got the best seat in the house for a very live experience,” Hersch says.
“I think there’s a lot of joy and beauty in this music that Fred and I made,”
adds Spalding. “Beyond collecting money for musicians in need, sharing the beauty in our hearts can have a healing effect as well.”
The five pieces included on Live at the Village Vanguard span a vast spectrum of repertoire, from original compositions to a Brazilian classic to familiar standards. A determined original in her own music, Spalding rarely sings standards, and her approach here is unique to her partnership with Hersch.
Her improvisation on the Gershwins’ “But Not For Me” becomes a witty, poetic extemporization on the lyric itself. Neal Hefti and Bobby Troup’s chauvinistic ditty “Girl Talk” comes under barbed scrutiny from not only a feminist but also an eco-conscious perspective. Hersch’s “Dream of Monk” has been a staple of the duo’s sets since the beginning. “Some Other Time” is a Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne song, less well known than the Leonard Bernstein classic. The set closes with Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro,” launched by Spalding’s unconventional scatting, which she eventually uses to engage in a nimble dance with Hersch’s jaunty piano.
“Playing with Fred feels like we’re in a sandbox,” Spalding says. “He takes his devotion to the music as serious as life and death, but once we start playing, it’s just fun.”
“I don’t think anybody’s heard Esperanza sing like this,” Hersch says, returning the compliments. “She’s fearless, and is one of the smartest people I know.”