Inside the Village Vanguard in Manhattan’s West Village, photographs of legendary jazz musicians line the dark-green walls. Stage left, above a portrait of a stolid John Coltrane, hangs a shot of the pianist Fred Hersch playing a song, his eyes closed, an intense yet peaceful aura about him.
Hersch, 56, is relatively young to have earned his spot on the wall, which features many players who have passed away. But he certainly deserves it. Though perhaps under-appreciated in the wider world of music, Hersch is one of the most respected musicians in jazz, known for his refined style and unapologetic devotion to his craft. That style, however, is easy to miss: Hersch is not outwardly virtuosic; he forgoes showy displays in favor of grace and subtlety and precision.
On September 11, Hersch brought his trio to the Village Vanguard to kick off a week-long run at the club. The band — including Hersch on piano, John Hébert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums — is heralding the release of its new two-disc set, “Alive at the Vanguard,” recorded in February during its last residency there.