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.
Hersch was already part of several recordings nominated for Grammy Awards before he got recognized by The Recording Academy for his own work. Art Farmer's A Work of Art in 1983 and two of Eddie Daniels' albums with Hersch in 1986 and 1987 preceded Short Stories, a collaboration between Janis Siegel and Hersch, co-led and co-produced with arrangements by Hersch, that got a nomination for her vocal performance in 1989. In 1992 finally Dancing in the Dark, his seventh trio recording and second for Chesky Records, was nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance.
Beside these Grammy nominations he was also part of Johnny Mathis' tribute album to Duke Ellington (Best Traditional Pop Performance, 1991),Luciana Souza's Norte e Sul/North and South (Best Jazz Vocal Album), and as duo partner for Nancy King's Live at Jazz Standard in 2006 (Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album).
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."
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 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 for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group|
|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|
|1995||I Never Told You: Fred Hersch Plays Johnny Mandel||Varèse Sarabande||Solo piano; Grammy nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group|
|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, with few duo, trio and quintet tracks; 3 cd set, Vol. 1 with originals, 2nd with standards and 3rd 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; "Valentine" got Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition|
|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 for "Work";DownBeat named it one of the Best CDs of 2012|
|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; Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "We See"|
|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 for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for "We See" (again)|
|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|
|1981||Art Farmer||A Work of Art||Concord Jazz||Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group|
|1982||Jane Ira Bloom||Mighty Lights||Enja||with Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell|
|1982||Art Farmer||Mirage||Soul Note|
|1983||Art Farmer||Warm Valley||Concord Jazz|
|1985||Art Farmer||You Make Me Smile||Soul Note|
|1986||Eddie Daniels||Breakthrough||GRP||with The London Philharmonia; Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist|
|1987||Jane Ira Bloom||Modern Drama||Columbia|
|1987||Tony Dagradi||Sweet Remembrance||Gramavision|
|1987||Eddie Daniels||To Bird with Love||GRP||Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Soloist and Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group|
|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 Jazz|
|1991||Jeri Brown||Mirage||Justin Time|
|1991||Johnny Mathis||In a Sentimental Mood: Mathis Sings Ellington||Columbia||Grammy Nominee for Best Traditional Pop Performance|
|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||Roseanna Vitro||Softly||Concord Jazz|
|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 Jazz||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 for Best Jazz Vocal Album|
|2005||Renée Fleming with F.H. and Bill Frisell||Haunted Heart||Decca|
|2013||Avishai, Anat and Yuval Cohen as "3 Cohens"||Tightrope||Anzic|