Notes on Eric Hirsh Quartet, January 6

This past Friday evening I had the great pleasure of seeing jazz composer and pianist Eric Hirsh and his quartet perform live at the Sharp Nine Gallery in Durham. The quartet featured Aaron Hill on alto and tenor saxophones, Eric Hirsh on piano, Pete Kimosh on bass, and Stephen Coffman on drums. The show consisted of two sets of mostly original compositions, with a few covers mixed in. Even though Hirsh was valiantly battling a bad cold throughout the show, both sets were full of creativity, energy, and beautiful moments.

Hirsh’s arrangements, both of his original compositions and of his covers, were all very playful and engaging. His well-thought-out, memorable melodies mixed with elements of odd meter and dissonant harmony came together to create intriguing and pleasing performances that left me humming the whole car ride home. In fact, some of Hirsh’s tunes were catchy enough that I remembered many of them from the last time I had heard him play several months ago. Each composition took the audience on a dramatic journey, illustrating a story that kept us on our toes.

Hirsh’s selections for covers was quite nice, ranging from Regina Spektor to Dionne Warwick. This was exciting and refreshing since I’m used to jazz quartets simply covering jazz standards. He brought a fresh take to the sounds we’re so used to. Hirsh’s selection of pieces, as well as his arrangements and performance of them, eluded my expectations in a very entertaining way.

The quartet’s performance was seamless and comfortable. Although there were some small errors and tough spots, the group remained confident. The group knew the music thoroughly, and they were well prepared and knew exactly what was coming next. They maintained a high level of energy throughout. Although Hirsh was concerned that his cold was challenging his playing, I couldn’t even tell until he started speaking.

Overall, Hirsh’s performance was engaging and entertaining. His compositional style incorporated elements of modern jazz, funk, rock, pop, and classical and neoclassical music, among others. It was reminiscent Chick Corea, The Bad Plus, and other modern jazz musicians.

Hirsh announced at his show that his quartet would be in the studio the following day to record their debut album, which will feature his original compositions as well as covers.