“A brilliant technician, a thoughtful, elegant improviser, and an artist with a curious ear.”
- Fernando Gonzalez, The Miami Herald
DownBeat magazine called pianist and composer Fred Hersch “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation” and he has earned a place among the foremost jazz artists in the world today, having solidified a reputation as a versatile master of jazz piano, as well as a relentlessly probing composer and conceptualist. He is widely recognized for his ability steadfastly to create a unique body of original works while reinventing the standard jazz repertoire – investing time-tested classics, particularly those by Thelonious Monk, with keen insight, fresh ideas and extraordinary technique. Whether unaccompanied, in duo, working with his trio, quintet or orchestral ensembles, Hersch has explored the jazz tradition to its fullest even as he opens new and undiscovered doors. Hersch’s numerous accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition, and five Grammy® nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Best Instrumental Composition, and Best Jazz Album. He has appeared on over one hundred recordings, including more than two-dozen albums as bandleader or solo pianist.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hersch began playing the piano as a four-year-old. Much to his teacher’s chagrin, a career in jazz could have been foreshadowed by the young Fred’s propensity to improvise on the work of classical masters. Broadway original cast albums and his grandmother’s collection of sheet music fed an early interest in popular songs. Hersch’s musical journey led him to Boston’s New England Conservatory, where he graduated with honors in 1977. Heading south to New York City, Hersch quickly became one of the most in-demand pianists in town, while also working as a soloist and in duo settings at the late, lamented Bradley’s. As a sideman, he has appeared with such outstanding jazz artists as saxophonists Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, and Jane Ira Bloom; flugelhornist Art Farmer; harmonica wizard Toots Thielemans; vibraphonist Gary Burton; bassists Sam Jones and Charlie Haden.
Mr. Hersch has acted as a passionate spokesman and fundraiser for AIDS services and education agencies since 1993, a cause to which he is especially devoted given his own courageous 26-year struggle with HIV. His most recent trio CD, Whirl (Palmetto Records), was recorded after a protracted life-threatening illness and two-month coma in 2008. It received widespread attention and rave reviews in the media. The culmination of that illness also sparked the commission of the multimedia production “My Coma Dreams” that premiered in May 2011. Just prior, he once again played a week solo at the venerable Village Vanguard (he had also done so in 2005, the only pianist so honored). The final set of that engagement was released in 2011 under the title Fred Hersch – Alone at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto Records).
Mr. Hersch has been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship, grants from The National Endowment for the Arts, and numerous composition residencies. A committed educator, he conducted a Professional Training Workshop for Young Musicians at The Weill Institute at Carnegie Hall in 2008. He has given master classes and workshops around the world and teaches at The New School and The Manhattan School of Music; in addition to serving on the Jazz Studies faculty of The Juilliard School of Music and The New England Conservatory.
Fred Hersch – piano
John Hebert – double bass
Eric McPherson – drums