Fred Hersch and Esperanza Spalding show their chemistry on Alive at the Village Vanguard

Pianist Fred Hersch and bassist Esperanza Spalding pair up on a new duo recording called Alive at the Village Vanguard.

Both musicians are among the most acclaimed artists in modern jazz, and this live album captures their mastery and chemistry in a performance at New York’s esteemed Village Vanguard in October of 2018.

Hersch and Spalding have convened for only a handful of New York performances since their first meeting in 2013 during the pianist’s annual duo series at the Jazz Standard, yet they’ve quickly established a strong rapport. The pair takes the stage with no set arrangements and only a vague sense of the repertoire they’ll explore.

Listen to the duo’s take on the Gershwin standard But Not For Me:

“This recording sounds like you’re in the best seat in the Vanguard for a very live experience,” Hersch says. “You can really feel the vitality of the room, of the audience, and of our interplay. We decided on the word ‘Alive’ for the album title as you can really feel the intimacy and energy of the performances.”

“Playing with Fred feels like we’re in a sandbox,” Spalding adds. “He takes his devotion to the music as serious as life and death, but once we start playing, it’s just fun. I like to live on the edge in my music, but I find myself trying things that I usually wouldn’t when I play with him, finding new spaces to explore in the realm of improvised lyrics.”

Hersch and Spalding will celebrate the album’s release with a return to the Village Vanguard for a weeklong engagement beginning on Jan. 10. That will be followed by a three-week U.S. tour.

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Here’s the track listing:

  1. But Not for Me
  2. Dream of Monk
  3. Little Suede Shoes
  4. Girl Talk
  5. Evidence
  6. Some Other Time
  7. Loro
  8. A Wish

Fred Hersch and Esperanza Spalding’s Alive at the Village Vanguard is out Jan. 6, 2023, via Palmetto Records.