Fred Hersch Credit: Vincent Soyez

Mainstream jazz is very often an art of refinement: it’s a well-defined tradition with set parameters within which the most skilled players balance chops, improvisational elegance, and subtle boundary pushing. Those qualities can make it feel insular, but pianist Fred Hersch has developed such brilliant chemistry with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson that the simpatico trio’s music feels writ large even as the outfit cleaves to an introverted attack—the group transcends jazz tradition while nestling snugly within it. Last year the trio released Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto), its second live album recorded at the famed New York jazz mecca and one that captures a band moving as a single organism even within the head-solo-head format of postbop. As usual, lesser-known standards—including a brisk, airy reading of the Richard Rodgers tune “A Cockeyed Optimist” and a de rigueur take on Monk’s “We See”—are complemented by a slew of Hersch originals, such as the multivalent “Serpentine” and the hurtling “Blackwing Palomino.” The group won’t knock you down with the force of its playing, but it can certainly floor you with its exquisite touch and high-level interaction.   v