Fred Hersch likes guitar players. He’s performed with Bill Frisell and Jim Hall, just to name two, and has dedicated original songs to these guys. And it’s not as if Hersch needs to piggyback off these names in order to establish his own. As jazz pianists go, Fred Hersch’s star has held steady in the sky for 30 years. Hell, even Jason Moran describes him as “perfection”. This career comfort affords him some wiggle room, a chance to get better acquainted with up-and-coming talent. The one featured on Free Flying is 25-year-old guitarist Julian Lage, a musician so subtle the you almost don’t notice him at the very beginning (even though the track is titled “Song Without Words #4: Duet”).
The two musicians agreeably trade licks and run-offs on seven Fred Hersch originals as well as covers of “Beatrice” and “Monk’s Dream”. The spectrum mostly belongs to Hersch. When Lage is turned loose now and then, he sounds like so many other jazz guitarists that have come and gone. Then again, Lage wasn’t even born when Fred Hersch recorded his second album, so perhaps that sense of personality will shine through in his days to come.