Interview with jazz pianist Fred Hersch

Jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch, once described as “a poet of a pianist,” has been gradually erasing the barriers between classical and jazz traditions.

A Cincinnati native who began playing the piano at 4, Hersch worked as a sideman in the 1980s with the likes of Art Farmer and Stan Getz, then went on to record more than 20 albums as a solo artist and bandleader, receiving two Grammy nominations for best jazz instrumental and, in 2003, a Guggenheim Fellowship for composition. His two most recent releases, “Leaves of Grass,” settings of Walt Whitman poems, and “Haunted Heart,” a collaboration with soprano Ren?©e Fleming, have been widely admired.

Hersch spoke recently from his home in New York City about his music and about the fact that he has become, in his words, “the poster person in the jazz community for gay issues.”

Questions posed include:

  • Does your writing concert music give your jazz playing a little more structure?
  • You appeared on a panel in New York in 2002 with Gary Burton and Andy Bey on a subject seldom discussed, homosexuality and jazz. Why do you think there are so few gay jazz musicians? Or are they simply keeping it quiet?
  • When you’ve done solo piano for a while, is it a relief to get back to the trio or does the trio then seem confining?

Read the full interview: Jazz: An interview with pianist Fred Hersch

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