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  • Jonathan Widran

ADAM HERSH, Tornado Watch

A regular on the L.A. jazz scene for the pasts few years, SoCal native Adam Hersch enjoys ensemble action with the array of local greats he’s played with, but is a composer at heart. A versatile multi-keyboardist (piano, Rhodes, synth) with stylistically diverse sensibilities a la Herbie Hancock, George Duke and Joe Sample, he’s long believed in the freedom composing original music allows.


Though Hersh finally got around to releasing his first recording as a leader (House Roots) in 2020, his timing coincided with the pandemic, which led to him working with a bunch of LA heavy hitters remotely. Though the adventurous album was well received, Hersh clearly longed for the camaraderie that can only happen in the live setting. So after a bustling few years undertaking major transcription and performance projects involving the music of his heroes Allan Holdsworth and Wayne Shorter, he got in the jamming spirit at L.A.’s popular Sam First club with a whole new sextet of friends for a show that is now the  his aptly titled first live album, Tornado Watch.


From the moody, Rhodes driven, cleverly titled opener “Woe V Shade” through the high spirited “Propellant” featuring Hersh’s virtuosic piano and steamy horn sizzle of Evan Abounassar (trumpet) and Devin Daniels (sax), it’s all live – with the exception of a single overdub on the sensual, mystical ballad “In the Midst,” which features a fiery Andrew Renfroe guitar solo.


Besides the versatility Hersh displays in creating different moods, emotions and modulations on his three keyboards (including the Moog Matriarch synth), the most compelling element of this multi-faceted set is its polyrhythmic nature. His take on Hancock’s bop tune “Toys” – the album’s sole non-original piece – opens with an emphatic groove based on African rhythm called Maloya. Hersh also infuses his lush piano ballad “Everlasting” with a sultry, lyrical Brazilian flow – a vibe he and the band pick up again, more percussively, on the percussive, improvisation-filled “Do What You Will.”


“Concessions” may not be the most innovative of the tracks, but it straightforward trad jazz energy allows Hersh to shimmer on piano and Renfroe to blaze on guitar. Hersh is one of the city’s most promising young jazz artists who will have a tough act to follow if he gets back into the studio after this energizing live collection.

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