Forty years ago, 21-year-old pianist Fred Hersch moved from Ohio to New York City and began working with men like Joe Henderson and Art Farmer before striking out on his own. Since then, he’s made more than 80 records, many in trio settings with various sidemen. On Open Book, we have him all by himself and the results are phenomenal. Not since Thelonious Monk has a pianist so consistently captured my interest and admiration. Monk’s music also appeals to Hersch, who for some time has included a Monk tune on his CDs. Here he gives “Eronel” a playful interpretation that I’m sure the composer would also find enchanting. Hersch does a magnificent job of deconstructing then reconstructing Benny Golson’s “Whisper Not,” and on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Zingaro” he just keeps stretching the delicate structure of this incredibly lovely tune. The CD’s highlight is Hersch’s own “Through the Forest,” a nearly 20-minute “example of improvising with no safety net … I just went wherever it took me,” he says. And thanks to a Hamburg Steinway, the sound is gorgeous!