Praised in a New York Times Sunday Magazine feature as “singular among the trailblazers of their art, a largely unsung innovator of this borderless, individualistic jazz—a jazz for the 21st century,” the pianist Fred Hersch balances his internationally recognized instrumental and composing skills with significant achievements as a bandleader, collaborator and theatrical conceptualist.
Hersch – who as leader or co-leader has over three dozen albums to his name — has featured himself as either a solo performer or at the helm of varied small ensembles, which in addition to his celebrated trio, include a quintet and his unconventional Pocket Orchestra. Of Floating (Palmetto), Hersch´s recent bestselling CD with his long-time band-mates bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson, Nate Chinen of The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Hersch has been making acclaimed trio releases since his debut album as a leader, 30 years ago. He hasn´t made one better than this…an extravagantly beautiful new album.” It was nominated for two 2104 Grammy Awards, for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance (for the CD) and Best Improvised Jazz Solo; those were his seventh and eighth nominations both as jazz pianist and as composer.
In 2006 Hersch became the first artist in the 75-year history of New York’s legendary Village Vanguard to play a weeklong engagement as a solo pianist. His 2011 release, Alone at the Vanguard received Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo. In 2014, Hersch garnered his sixth Grammy nomination for his solo on “Duet” from Free Flying, a duo album with guitarist Julian Lage that received a rare 5-star rating from DownBeat. His newest CD Fred Hersch: SOLO will be released on Palmetto Records in September, 2015.
Hersch is currently a member of the Jazz Studies faculty of Rutgers University. And Hersch’s influence has been widely felt on a new generation of jazz pianists, from former students Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson to his colleague Jason Moran, who has said, “Fred at the piano is like LeBron James on the basketball court. He´s perfection.“
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