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Hersch, Fred

Fred Hersch (b.1955)

Pianist and composer Fred Hersch has been called a "one of thesmall handful of brilliant musicians of his generation" by Downbeatand has earned a place among the foremost jazz artists in the worldtoday. From the late 70's onward as a sideman to jazz legendsincluding Joe Henderson, Art Farmer and Stan Getz, he has solidified areputation as a versatile master of jazz piano, as well as arelentlessly probing composer and conceptualist. He is widelyrecognized for his ability to steadfastly create a unique body oforiginal works while reinventing the standard jazz repertoire –investing time-tested classics with keen insight, fresh ideas andextraordinary technique. Whether unaccompanied, in duo, working withtrios and quintets, Hersch has explored the jazz tradition to itsfullest even as he opens new and undiscovered doors. Hersch'snumerous accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowshipfor composition, two Grammy® nominations for Best Jazz InstrumentalPerformance and a Grammy® nomination for Best InstrumentalComposition. He has appeared on over one hundred recordings,including more than two-dozen albums as bandleader/solo pianist.

His career as a performer has been greatly enhanced by hiscomposing activities, a vital part of nearly all of his live concertsand recordings. In 2003, Hersch created Leaves of Grass (PalmettoRecords), a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman's poetry for twovoices (Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry) and an instrumental octet; thework was presented in March 2005 in a sold-out performance at ZankelHall at Carnegie Hall as part of a six-city US tour. Hersch has touredwith concert pianist Christopher O'Riley ("Heard Fresh: Music for TwoPianos") and he has also collaborated with artists ranging from BillFrisell, Toots Thielemans and Charlie Haden to singers Renée Fleming,Norma Winstone and Audra McDonald. He has received commissions fromThe Gilmore Keyboard Festival, The Doris Duke Foundation, The MillerTheatre at Columbia University, The Gramercy Trio and The BrooklynYouth Chorus. His solo piano compositions and chamber music arepublished by Edition Peters. Naxos Records has released Fred Hersch:Concert Music 2001-2006, a disc of his through-composed "classical"works.

Hersch is considered to be the most prolific and widely-praisedsolo jazz pianist of his generation. 2009 saw the release of hiseighth solo disc Fred Hersch Plays Jobim on Sunnyside, cited as one ofthe Top Ten jazz releases of 2009 by NPR and by the Wall StreetJournal. In 2006, Palmetto Records released the solo CD Fred Hersch inAmsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis; its release led to Hersch becoming thefirst pianist in the 70-year history of New York's legendary VillageVanguard to play an entire week as a solo pianist shortly after thedisc's release. In addition, he leads a trio, a quintet and hasongoing special collaborations with jazz and classicalinstrumentalists and vocalists around the world. A recent projectfeatures an unconventional line-up of piano, trumpet, voice andpercussion; The Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra: Live at Jazz Standardcame out in April 2009 on Sunnyside Records. His latest release isThe Fred Hersch Trio: Whirl, which came out in June 2010 on PalmettoRecords.

Hersch has acted as a passionate spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDSservices and education agencies since 1993. He has produced andperformed on four benefit recordings and at numerous concerts for thecharities Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS and BroadwayCares/Equity Fights AIDS that have raised over $250,000 to date.

Hersch has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning with Dr. BillyTaylor and on a wide variety of National Public Radio programsincluding Fresh Air, Jazz Set, Studio 360 and Marian McPartland'sPiano Jazz. Hersch has also been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship,grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer,and six composition residencies at The MacDowell Colony. Heconducted a Professional Training Workshop for Young Musicians at TheWeill Institute at Carnegie Hall in 2008 and was awarded the BraniganLectureship at Indiana University in 2004. A committed educator, hehas taught at The New School and Manhattan School of Music; he iscurrently a visiting professor at Western Michigan University and onthe Jazz Studies faculty of the Juilliard School and The New EnglandConservatory.

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