Free Flying

Free Flying

The combination of piano and guitar can be tricky, given that the instruments occupy the same general sonic territory. This is clear on Free Flying, which finds pianist Fred Hersch and guitarist Julian Lage working through a live set from 2013. Yet without additional instruments to muddy the subtle textures, the two don’t seem worried that the instruments’ sound blends together as one, particularly on the album’s opening and closing tracks. With Hersch (age 58) in his prime and Lage (age 25) working toward that, the pianist seems to spend more time in the driver seat. Perhaps because Hersch wrote seven of the nine tunes (with only Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice” and the original “Stealthiness” making their debut on one of his albums), this is understandable. But this album is often at its best when the guitarist throws curveballs into the mix, as he does on “Heartland” and the aforementioned “Stealthiness.” For his part, Hersch has never sounded better than on the folk-flavored “Down Home.”

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