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. 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.
|1984||Horizons||Concord Jazz||Trio, with Charlie Haden (bass), Joey Baron (drums)|
|1984||As One||JMT||Duo, co-led with Jane Ira Bloom (soprano sax)|
|1986||Sarabande||Sunnyside||Trio, with Charlie Haden (bass), Joey Baron (drums)|
|1988||E.T.C.||Red||As E.T.C.; trio with Steve LaSpina (bass), Jeff Hirshfield (drums)|
|1989||Heartsongs||Sunnyside||Trio, with Michael Formanek (bass), Jeff Hirshfield (drums)|
|1989?||The French Collection (Jazz Impressions of French Classics)||EMI Angel||with Steve LaSpina, Joey Baron and guests: James Newton, Kevin Eubanks, Toots Thielemans, Eddie Daniels|
|1989?||Short Stories||Atlantic||with Janis Siegel (plus Harvie Swartz, Kris Yenny)|
|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||As E.T.C.; quartet, with Steve LaSpina, Jeff Hirshfield, Jerry Bergonzi|
|1991||Forward Motion||Chesky||Quintet, with Rich Perry (tenor sax), Erik Friedlander (cello), Scott Colley (bass), Tom Rainey (drums)|
|1992?||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|
|1992||Dancing in the Dark||Chesky||Trio, with Drew Gress (bass), Tom Rainey (drums)|
|1993||Fred Hersch at Maybeck||Concord Jazz||Solo piano; in concert|
|1994?||Maiden Voyage||Chesky||with Leny Andrade|
|1994?||Plays||Chesky||Trio, with Drew Gress, Tom Rainey|
|1995?||I Never Told You: Fred Hersch Plays Johnny Mandel||Varèse Sarabande||Solo piano|
|1995?||Point in Time||Enja||Trio and quintet, with Drew Gress, Tom Rainey, Dave Douglas, Rich Perry|
|1994?||Beautiful Love||Sunnyside||Duo, with Jay Clayton (vocals)|
|1995?||Slow Hot Wind||Varèse Sarabande||with Janis Siegel, Tony Dumas, Ralph Penland|
|1995||Passion Flower - The Music of Billy Strayhorn||Nonesuch||with Drew Gress (bass), Tom Rainey (drums), and string orchestra cond. by Eric Stern; one track duo, with Nurit Tilles (piano); Chief Bey (vocals) added for one track|
|1996||Plays Rodgers & Hammerstein||Nonesuch||Solo piano|
|1997||Plays Thelonious Monk||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||As Thirteen Ways, with Michael Moore, Gerry Hemingway|
|1998||Songs We Know||Nonesuch||Duo, with Bill Frisell (guitar)|
|1998||Let Yourself Go: Live at Jordan Hall||Nonesuch||Solo piano|
|1999?||Focus||Palmetto||As Thirteen Ways; trio, with Michael Moore, Gerry Hemingway|
|2000?||4 in Perspective||Village Life||with Norma Winstone, Kenny Wheeler, Paul Clarvis|
|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 (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums); in concert|
|2003?||Songs and Lullabies||Sunnyside||Most tracks duo, with Norma Winstone (vocals); some tracks with Gary Burton (vibes) added|
|2003||Fred Hersch Trio + 2||Palmetto||Trio, with Drew Gress (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums) + Ralph Alessi (trumpet, flugelhorn), Tony Malaby (tenor sax)|
|2003?||Soothing the Senses||Sensory Resources||Solo piano|
|2005?||Leaves of Grass||Palmetto||lyrics by Walt Whitman, ensemble featuring vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry|
|2005?||In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis||Palmetto||Solo piano; in concert|
|2007?||Night & the Music||Palmetto||Trio, with Drew Gress, Nasheet Waits|
|2007?||Concert Music 2001-2006||Naxos||with pianists Blair McMillen and Natasha Paremski, the Gramercy Trio, and cellist Dorothy Lawson|
|2009?||Live at Jazz Standard||Sunnyside||Quartet, with Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Richie Barshay (percussion), Jo Lawry (vocals); in concert|
|2009?||Plays Jobim||Sunnyside||Solo piano|
|2010?||Whirl||Palmetto||Trio, with John Hébert, Eric McPherson|
|2010||Everybody's Song but My Own||Venus||Trio, with John Hébert (bass), Eric McPherson (drums)|
|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, Eric McPherson|
|2013?||Free Flying||Palmetto||with Julian Lage; Grammy Award nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo|
|2013?||Only Many||CAM Jazz||Duo, co-led with Ralph Alessi (trumpet)|
|2014?||Floating||Palmetto||Trio, with John Hébert, Eric McPherson|
|2016?||Sunday Night at the Vanguard||Palmetto||Trio, with John Hébert, Eric McPherson|
|2017?||Open Book||Palmetto||Solo piano|
|2018?||Live in Europe||Palmetto||Trio, with John Hébert, Eric McPherson|
With Jane Ira Bloom
- Mighty Lights (Enja, 1982)
- The Nearness (Arabesque, 1996)
- The Red Quartets (Arabesque, 1999)
- Chasing Paint (Arabesque, 2003)
With Art Farmer
With Billy Harper
With Sam Jones
- Something New (Interplay, 1979)
With Matt Kendrick
- Other Aspects
With Nancy King
With Toots Thielemans
- Only Trust Your Heart (Concorde, 1988)
With Roseanna Vitro
- The Time of My Life: Roseanna Vitro Sings the Songs of Steve Allen (See Breeze, 1999; recorded 1986)
- Conviction: Thoughts of Bill Evans (A Records, 2001)
- "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.