Fred Hersch at Reykjavik Jazz Festival 2017
|Born||October 21, 1955|
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Labels||Sunnyside, Chesky, Nonesuch, Palmetto|
Fred Hersch (born October 21, 1955) is an American jazz pianist and educator. He has performed solo and led his own groups, including the Pocket Orchestra consisting of piano, trumpet, voice, and percussion. He was the first person to play weeklong engagements as a solo pianist at the Village Vanguard in New York City. He has recorded more than 70 of his jazz compositions. Hersch has been nominated for several Grammy Awards, and, as of December 2014, had been on the Jazz Studies faculty of the New England Conservatory since 1980 (with breaks).
Hersch was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, of Jewish parents. He began playing the piano at the age of four (under the tutelage of Jeanne Kirstein) and started composing music by eight. He won national piano competitions starting at the age of ten.
Hersch first became interested in jazz while at Grinnell College in Iowa. He dropped out of school and started playing jazz in Cincinnati. He continued his studies at the New England Conservatory, attracting attention from the press – "a fine showcase for Fred Hersch" – in a college recital. On graduation, he became a jazz piano instructor at the college.
One of Fred Hersch's earliest professional engagements was with Art Farmer in Los Angeles in 1978. Jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote that he "showed his ability as an accompanist and soloist at the out-of-tune piano". He played with Farmer again in 1981. In 1982, the album A Work of Art (Art Farmer Quartet, Concord Jazz CJ-179), was released, with Hersch on piano. It included two original compositions by Hersch. Leonard Feather gave it 3½ stars.
In 1983, Hersch played a duo session with bassist Ratso Harris at the Knickerbocker Saloon, New York. The New York Times wrote, "Mr. Hersch is a romantic. He is openly involved in what he is playing and projects this involvement with body English and facial expressions that subtly underline the sense of his music. His lines often become gently billowing waves of sound, and he rises and falls, tenses and relaxes along with them."
In 1985, he played with the Jamie Baum Quartet.
In 1986, he played with Toots Thielemans at the Great Woods jazz festival. He played with him in several sessions the following year, and again in 1987, receiving special attention for his solos. In 1986, he taught at Berklee College of Music.
In 1989, Hersch played with Janis Siegel of The Manhattan Transfer and they recorded together in a studio set up in his home. His first solo piano recording came in 1993: Fred Hersch at Maybeck.
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 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.
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, Joshua Bell, Christopher O'Riley, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg); and Broadway (Audra McDonald). Hersch has accompanied jazz vocalists such as Nancy King, Norma Winstone and Kurt Elling.
- 2011: Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Alone at the Vanguard, and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "Work"
- 2013: Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "Song Without Words #4: Duet" (with Julian Lage)
- 2014: Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Floating (as the Fred Hersch Trio), and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "You and the Night and the Music"
- 2016: Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Sunday Night at the Vanguard, and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "We See"
- 2017: Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Open Book, and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "Whisper Not"
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 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.
Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Composition 2003
Coup de coeur de l'Academie Charles Cross 2011 (Alone)
Grand Prix du Disque de l'Academie Charles Cross 2012 (Alive at the Vanguard)
Jazz Magazine (France) “Artiste Étranger de L’année” 2015
DownBeat Critics’ Poll “Pianist of the Year” 2015
JazzTimes Critics’ Poll “Piano” 2015
Jazz Logical “CD Internacional” 2015 (Solo)
Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie du Jazz 2015 (Solo)
Honorary Doctor of Musical Arts, Northern Kentucky University, 2015
Doris Duke Artist Award 2016
Jazz Journalists Association “Pianist of the Year” 2016
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Grinnell College, 2016
Prix Honorem in Jazz from L’Acádemie Charles Cros, 2017
Jazz Journalists Association “Book of the Year about Jazz” 2018
Jazz Journalists Association “Pianist of the Year” 2018
Downbeat magazine described Hersch as "one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation." 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."
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."
Illness and recovery
In 1993 Hersch announced publicly that he was gay and that he had been treated for HIV since 1984. He fell into a coma in 2008 for two months. When he regained consciousness, he had lost all muscular function as a result of his long inactivity and could not play the piano. After rehabilitation, he was able to play again. In 2011 he performed My Coma Dreams, a stage show written and directed by Herschel Garfein about the contrast between dreams and reality.
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 which had raised over $250,000 as of June, 2013. In April, 2016 he played a benefit concert for Buddhist Global Relief. He has also been the keynote speaker and performer at international medical conferences in the U.S. and Europe.
("Year" indicates year of release, artists and labels are only linked once at first appearance. Line-up can be sorted by "solo", "duo", "trio"... All trios are classic piano trios with (grand) piano, upright bass and drum kit, except for the trio Thirteen Ways with saxophonist Michael Moore.)
|Year||Title||Label||Line-up and notes|
|1984||Horizons||Concord Jazz||Trio with Charlie Haden and Joey Baron|
|1984||As One||JMT||Duo with Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax)|
|1986||Sarabande||Sunnyside||Trio with Charlie Haden and Joey Baron|
|1988||E.T.C.||Red||Trio E.T.C. with Steve LaSpina and Jeff Hirshfield|
|1989||Heartsongs||Sunnyside||Trio with Michael Formanek and Jeff Hirshfield|
|1989||The French Collection (Jazz Impressions of French Classics)||EMI Angel||Trio with Steve LaSpina, Joey Baron and guests: James Newton, Kevin Eubanks, Toots Thielemans, Eddie Daniels|
|1989||Short Stories||Atlantic||Quartet co-led by Janis Siegel plus Harvie Swartz (bass) and Kris Yenny (cello); Siegel was a Grammy nominee for for Best Jazz Vocal Performance|
|1990||Evanessence: A Tribute to Bill Evans||Evidence||Trio with Michael Formanek or Marc Johnson, Jeff Hirshfield and guests: Gary Burton, Toots Thielemans|
|1991||E.T.C. Plus One||Red||Quartet, trio E.T.C. with Steve LaSpina and Jeff Hirshfield plus Jerry Bergonzi (tenor saxophone)|
|1991||Forward Motion||Chesky||Quintet with Rich Perry (tenor sax), Erik Friedlander (cello), Scott Colley (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums)|
|1992||Dancing in the Dark||Chesky||Trio with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey; Grammy nominee|
|1993||Red Square Blue: Jazz Impressions of Russian Composers||EMI Angel||Trio with Steve LaSpina, Jeff Hirshfield and guests: James Newton, Toots Thielemans, Phil Woods, Erik Friedlander|
|1993||Fred Hersch at Maybeck||Concord Jazz||Solo piano, in concert|
|1994||Plays...||Chesky||Trio with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey|
|1995||Point in Time||Enja||Trio with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey, and quintet adding Dave Douglas (trumpet), Rich Perry (tenor saxophone) on half of the tracks|
|1995||Beautiful Love||Sunnyside||Duo with Jay Clayton (vocals)|
|1995||Slow Hot Wind||Varèse Sarabande||Duo with Janis Siegel, and quartet with Tony Dumas and Ralph Penland added|
|1996||I Never Told You: Fred Hersch Plays Johnny Mandel||Varèse Sarabande||Solo piano; Grammy nominee|
|1996||Passion Flower - The Music of Billy Strayhorn||Nonesuch||Trio with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey plus string orchestra conducted by Eric Stern; one track is a duo with Nurit Tilles (piano); Chief Bey (vocals) added for one track|
|1996||Plays Rodgers & Hammerstein||Nonesuch||Solo piano|
|1997||The Duo Album||Classical Action||Duos with Jim Hall, Kenny Barron, Tom Harrell, Gary Burton, Janis Siegel a.o.|
|1997||Thirteen Ways||GM||Trio Thirteen Ways with Michael Moore and Gerry Hemingway|
|1998||Plays Thelonious Monk||Nonesuch||Solo piano|
|1998||Songs We Know||Nonesuch||Duo with Bill Frisell (guitar)|
|1998||Let Yourself Go: Live at Jordan Hall||Nonesuch||Solo piano, in concert|
|1999||Focus||Palmetto||Trio Thirteen Ways with Michael Moore and Gerry Hemingway|
|2000||4 in Perspective||Village Life||Quartet with Norma Winstone (vocals), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet) and Paul Clarvis (percussion)|
|2000||Songs without Words||Nonesuch||Solo, duo, trio, quintet; 3 cd set, vol. 3 tributed to Cole Porter|
|2002||Live at the Village Vanguard||Palmetto||Trio with Drew Gress and Nasheet Waits in concert|
|2003||Songs and Lullabies||Sunnyside||Duo with Norma Winstone; three tracks with Gary Burton added|
|2003||Fred Hersch Trio + 2||Palmetto||Quintet with Drew Gress, Nasheet Waits plus Ralph Alessi (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Tony Malaby (tenor sax)|
|2003||Soothing the Senses||Sensory Resources||Solo piano|
|2005||Leaves of Grass||Palmetto||Octet with four horns featuring vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry singing lyrics by Walt Whitman|
|2005||In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis||Palmetto||Solo piano, in concert; Grammy nominee|
|2006||Live at Jazz Standard||Maxjazz||Duo with Nancy King; Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album|
|2007||Night & the Music||Palmetto||Trio with Drew Gress and Nasheet Waits|
|2007||Concert Music 2001-2006||Naxos||Solo, duo and trio interpretations of compositions by Hersch with pianists Natasha Paremski, Blair McMillen, the Gramercy Trio, and Hersch himself with cellist Dorothy Lawson on one track|
|2009||Live at Jazz Standard||Sunnyside||Quartet with Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Richie Barshay (percussion) and Jo Lawry (vocals), in concert|
|2009||Plays Jobim||Sunnyside||Solo piano|
|2010||Whirl||Palmetto||Trio with John Hébert and Eric McPherson|
|2010||Everybody's Song but My Own||Venus||Trio with John Hébert and Eric McPherson|
|2011||Alone at the Vanguard||Palmetto||Solo piano; Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo|
|2012||Da Vinci||Bee Jazz||Duo with Nico Gori|
|2012||Alive at the Vanguard||Palmetto||Trio with John Hébert and Eric McPherson|
|2013||Free Flying||Palmetto||Duo with Julian Lage (guitar); Grammy Award nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "Song Without Words #4: Duet"|
|2013||Only Many||CAM Jazz||Duo with Ralph Alessi|
|2014||Floating||Palmetto||Trio with John Hébert and Eric McPherson; Two Grammy Award nominees for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "You and the Night and the Music"|
|2016||Sunday Night at the Vanguard||Palmetto||Trio with John Hébert and Eric McPherson|
|2017||Open Book||Palmetto||Solo piano|
|2018||'97@ The Village Vanguard||Palmetto||Trio with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey in concert, recorded live in 1997|
|2018||Live in Europe||Palmetto||Trio with John Hébert and Eric McPherson; Grammy nominee|
|1979||Art Farmer||Yama||CTI||with Joe Henderson|
|1979||Billy Harper||Billy Harper Quintet in Europe||Soul Note|
|1979||Billy Harper||The Awakening||Marge|
|1979||Sam Jones||Something New||Interplay|
|1982||Jane Ira Bloom||Mighty Lights||Enja||with Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell|
|1981||Art Farmer||A Work of Art||Concord||Grammy Nominee|
|1982||Art Farmer||Mirage||Soul Note|
|1983||Art Farmer||Warm Valley||Concord|
|1985||Art Farmer||You Make Me Smile||Soul Note|
|1986||Eddie Daniels||Breakthrough||GRP||with The London Philharmonia; Grammy Nominee|
|1987||Jane Ira Bloom||Modern Drama||Columbia|
|1987||Eddie Daniels||To Bird with Love||GRP||Grammy Nominee|
|1987||Tony Dagradi||Sweet Remembrance||Gramavision|
|1987||Toots Thielemans||Ne me quitte pas/Do Not Leave Me||Milan/Stash|
|1987||Roseanna Vitro||A Quiet Place||Skyline|
|1988||Jane Ira Bloom||Slalom||Columbia|
|1988||Toots Thielemans||Only Trust Your Heart||Concord|
|1991||Jeri Brown||Mirage||Justin Time|
|1991||Johnny Mathis||In a Sentimental Mood: Mathis Sings Ellington||Columbia||Grammy Nominee|
|1992||Jack Jones||The Gershwin Album||Columbia/Legacy|
|1992||Matt Kendrick||Other Aspects||Suitcase|
|1992||Various artists (Ana Caram, Paquito D'Rivera, Tom Harrell, and Phil Woods)||JVC Jazz Festival Presents a Night of Chesky Jazz Live||Chesky|
|1994||Leny Andrade||Maiden Voyage||Chesky|
|1994||Various artists||The AIDS Quilt Songbook||Nightengale/Harmonia Mundi||featured with an original composition accompanying baritone William Sharp|
|1995||Chris Connor||Lover Come Back to Me: Live at Sweet Basil||Evidence|
|1996||Jane Ira Bloom||The Nearness||Arabesque|
|1996||Michael Callen||Legacy||Significant Other||featured on three tracks|
|1996||Dawn Upshaw||Sings Rodgers and Hart||Nonesuch|
|1997||Gary Burton||Departure||Concord||with John Scofield, John Patitucci and Peter Erskine|
|1997||Various artists||George Delerue: Music from the Films of François Truffaut||Nonesuch||featured on two tracks|
|1999||Jane Ira Bloom||The Red Quartets||Arabesque|
|1999||Janis Siegel||The Tender Trap||Monarch|
|1999||Dawn Upshaw||Sings Vernon Duke||Nonesuch||featured on four tracks|
|1999||Roseanna Vitro||The Time of My Life: Roseanna Vitro Sings the Songs of Steve Allen||See Breeze||recorded 1986|
|2001||Roseanna Vitro||Conviction: Thoughts of Bill Evans||A Records|
|2003||Jane Ira Bloom||Chasing Paint||Arabesque|
|2003||Harvey Mason||Trios: With All My Heart||VideoArts||featured on one track|
|2003||Luciana Souza||Norte e Sul/North and South||Biscoito Fino/Sunnyside||Grammy Nominee|
|2005||Renée Fleming with F.H. and Bill Frisell||Haunted Heart||Decca|
|2013||Avishai, Anat and Yuval Cohen as "3 Cohens"||Tightrope||Anzic|
- "Faculty Profile: Fred Hersch" (15 July 2017) Retrieved on 1 November 2017.
- "the third stream" (Jan 20, 1977) Bay State Banner, Boston
- "Jazzman on Classic Path To Wider Audience: Pianist Fred Hersch" (July 9, 1989) San Francisco Chronicle p. 42
- "Art Farmer Plays at Memory Lane" (Nov 9, 1978) Los Angeles Times p. H20
- "Art Farmer Plays It Cool; Art Farmer - With Fred Hersch, Piano; Bob Bodely, Bass; And Billy Hart, Drums; At Tinker's" (26 Sep 1981) Boston Globe p.1
- "Jazz Album Briefs" (Apr 18, 1982) Los Angeles Times p. K59
- "Going Out Guide" (June 30, 1980) The New York Times p. C.17
- "Chris Connor's Comeback" (Jan 16, 1981) The New York Times p. C1
- "10th Jazz Festival Goes Singing and Drumming In" (June 26, 1981) The New York Times p. C1
- "Joe Henderson in Sextet In Jazz at Public Series" (Nov 1, 1981) The New York Times p. A70
- "Jazz Fred Hersch, Pianist" (Mar 26, 1983) The New York Times p. 1.19
- "The Pop Life" (Apr 13, 1983) The New York Times
- "Jane Ira Bloom Plays in Fast Company" (Apr 15, 1983) Philadelphia Daily News
- "Here and There" (Jan 20, 1984) Philadelphia Daily News p.43
- "Regattabar to Launch 7-Nights-a-Week Jazz" (Mar 1, 1985) Boston Globe
- "Thielemans Whistles for Fun, Profit" (11 July 1986) Boston Globe
- "AROUND TOWN Bridging the Seasons" (9 Sep 1987) Newsday p.14
- Leonard Feather (21 Sep 1987) "JAZZ REVIEWS THIELEMANS ON TOP", Los Angeles Times p.5
- "Toots Thielemans Plays a Hot Jazz Harmonica" (5 Feb 1987) Boston Globe
- "Schools Offer the Mechanical While Fostering the Spiritual" (13 July 1986) Chicago Tribune p.8
- "Critic's Choice: Jazz" (May 17, 1987) The New York Times
- "Fred Hersh Quintet at Willow Jazz Club" (16 Sep 1988) Boston Globe
- "A Solo Detour On this route, Manhattan Transfer's Janis Siegel's only harmony is with a piano" (4 June 1989) Newsday
- Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (1996). The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (3rd ed.). Penguin. p. 626. ISBN 978-0-14-051368-4.
- Fred Hersch (2005) Fred Hersch in Amsterdam : Live at the Bimhuis, Palmetto Records (OCLC 874395763)
- Fred Hersch (2009) Fred Hersch Plays Jobim, Sunnyside Communications (OCLC 430564030)
- Dariusz Terefenko (2012) "JAZZ PIANO", Notes (New England Conservatory Notes) Vol.68 No.3
- "Songs of Whitman; Jazz pianist Fred Hersch crowns a lifetime of achievement with Leaves of Grass" (Apr 1, 2003) The Advocate Vol.886 p.50
- Renée Fleming, soprano and Fred Hersch, piano - New York City (June 12, 2003) (Michael Palm Series) Broadway Cares, Events Archives
- Classical Action's Fifth Anniversary Celebration at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, featuring violinist Joshua Bell, pianists Fred Hersch and Ursula Oppens, dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones, bassist Edgar Meyer, the Orion String Quartet, clarinetist David Shifrin, soprano Dawn Upshaw, Ida Nevasayneva of Les Ballets Trockadero of Monte Carlo; hosted by Madeline Kahn and Nathan Lane - New York City (Jan 10, 1998)
- Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, violin and Fred Hersch, piano - New York City (Jun 13, 200) Broadway Cares, Events Archives
- Fred Bouchard, Downbeat; quoted at Press, Fred Hersch website.
- David Hajdu, The New York Times Sunday Magazine; quoted at Press, Fred Hersch website.
- Collar, Matt. "Fred Hersch". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
- Hajdu, David (31 January 2010). "Giant Steps: The Survival of a Great Jazz Pianist". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
- Ratliff, Ben (9 May 2011). "'My Coma Dreams', by Fred Hersch - Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
- Discography on Fred Hersch's homepage Retrieved January 19, 2019
- Fred Hersch discography at Discogs. Retrieved January 19, 2019