Fred Hersch

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Fred Hersch (born October 21, 1955) is an American jazz pianist and composer. Hersch has featured himself as either a solo performer or at the helm of varied small ensembles, which in addition to his trio, include a quintet, as well as his "Pocket Orchestra" featuring piano, trumpet, voice and percussion. He was the first person to play week-long engagements as a solo pianist New York's Village Vanguard. He has recorded more than 70 of his jazz compositions. Hersch has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, and is currently[when?] on the Jazz Studies faculty of the New England Conservatory.

Early life[edit]

Hersch was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He began playing the piano at the age of four and started composing music by eight. He won national piano competitions starting at the age of ten.


Hersch was awarded a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition. In the same year, he created Leaves of Grass (Palmetto Records), a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman's poetry for two voices (Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry) and an instrumental octet; the work was presented in March 2005 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall as part of a six-city U.S. tour.

In 2006, Palmetto Records released the solo CD Fred Hersch in Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis and released his eighth solo disc, Fred Hersch Plays Jobim, in 2009. Hersch's 2011 production My Coma Dreams was a full-evening work for 11 instruments, actor/singer and animation/multimedia. It was based on dreams he retained after emerging from a two-month coma in the summer of 2008. He received Grammy nominations in 2011 for Alone at the Vanguard (Best Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo).

His other Grammy nominations were for Best Instrumental Composition, and two for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance. In 2011 Hersch was voted Jazz Pianist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. His two-CD trio album, Alive at the Vanguard, was awarded the 2012 Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros in France and was named one of the Best CDs of 2012 by Downbeat.

Hersch's career as a performer has been enhanced by his composing activities, which are an important part of nearly all of his concerts and recordings. He has received commissions from the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, the Gramercy Trio and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. A disc of his through-composed works, Fred Hersch: Concert Music 2001-2006, was released by Naxos Records.

Hersch has collaborated with a variety of instrumentalists and vocalists in the worlds of jazz (Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Stan Getz and Bill Frisell); classical (Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Christopher O'Riley); and Broadway (Audra McDonald). Hersch has accompanied jazz vocalists such as Nancy King, Norma Winstone and Kurt Elling.

Hersch has been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship, grants from Chamber Music America, the National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer, and seven composition residencies at the MacDowell Colony. Hersch has been a guest on a variety of radio and television programs.

Hersch has taught at The New School and Manhattan School of Music, and conducted a Professional Training Workshop for Young Musicians at The Weill Institute at Carnegie Hall in 2008.

Charity work[edit]

Hersch has been a spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies since 1993. Hersch has produced and performed on four benefit recordings and in numerous concerts for charities including Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS that have raised over $250,000 to date.[when?] He has also been the keynote speaker and performer at international medical conferences in the U.S. and Europe.


Hersch's influence has been widely felt on a new generation of jazz pianists, from former Hersch students including Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus, to his contemporary Jason Moran, who said: "Fred at the piano is like LeBron James on the basketball court. He's perfection."

Critical response[edit]

Downbeat magazine described Hersch as "one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation."[1] The New York Times described him as "singular among the trailblazers of their art, a largely unsung innovator of this borderless, individualistic jazz – a jazz for the 21st century."[2]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

  • Horizons (1984)
  • As One (JMT, 1985) with Jane Ira Bloom
  • Sarabande (1986)
  • E.T.C. (1988)
  • Heartsongs (1989)
  • The French Collection (1989)
  • Short Stories (1989) with Janis Siegel
  • Evanessence: A Tribute to Bill Evans (1990)
  • Forward Motion (1991)
  • Red Square Blue: Jazz Impressions of Russian Composers (1992)
  • Dancing in the Dark (1992)
  • Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Vol. 31 (1993)
  • The Fred Hersch Trio Plays (1994)
  • I Never Told You: Fred Hersch Plays Johnny Mandel (1994)
  • Point in Time (1995)
  • Plays Billy Strayhorn (1995)
  • Beautiful Love (1995) with Jay Clayton
  • Slow Hot Wind (1995) with Janis Siegel
  • Passion Flower (1996)
  • Plays Rodgers & Hammerstein (1996)
  • Thelonious (1997)
  • The Duo Album (1997)
  • Thirteen Ways (1997)
  • Songs We Know (1998) with Bill Frisell
  • Let Yourself Go: Live at Jordan Hall (1999)
  • Focus (2000) with Michael Moore and Gerry Hemingway
  • Songs without Words (2002)
  • Live at the Village Vanguard (2003)
  • Songs and Lullabies (2003) with Norma Winstone and Gary Burton
  • Fred Hersch Trio + 2 (2004) with Ralph Alessi and Tony Malaby
  • Leaves of Grass (2005)
  • Live at the Bimhuis (2005)
  • Fred Hersch Trio Night and the Music (2007)
  • Concert Music 2001-2006 (2007)
  • Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra: Live at Jazz Standard (2009)
  • Fred Hersch Trio - Whirl (2010)
  • Fred Hersch Trio - Everybody's Song But My Own (January 2011)
  • Fred Hersch Alone At The Vanguard (March 2011)
  • Da Vinci - Fred Hersch and Nico Gori (March 2012)
  • Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard (September 2012)
  • Free Flying (2013), with Julian Lage

As sideman[edit]

With Jane Ira Bloom

  • Mighty Lights (Enja, 1982)

With Art Farmer

With Billy Harper

"With Matt Kendrick"

  • "Other Aspects"

See also[edit]


External links[edit]