SUMMIT, NJ - Prize-winning jazz pianist Fred Hersch will present a solo performance on the 'Afternoon Music Concert Series' stage January 29, at The Unitarian Church. The audience is invited to meet the artist at a reception after the performance, which begins at 4 p.m..
Hersch, who is on the jazz piano faculty at Rutgers, received two major honors in 2016 -- selected as a Doris Duke Performing Artist and named Foreign Artist of the Year by Jazz Magazine in France. He has been nominated for 2016 GRAMMY Awards in two categories for his trio’s 2016 CD Sunday Night at the Vanguard, with winners to be announced two weeks after his Afternoon Music concert.
“Fred Hersch is a pianist of unfailing imagination, who plays with a coherence of touch and conception,” wrote Pierre Giroux in Audiophile Audition. “Hersch’s music — luxurious, free-flowing, unashamedly gorgeous jazz — is idiosyncratically, unmistakably a creation of his own,” said David Hajdu in the New York Times.
Born in Cincinnati, Hersch began playing the piano at the age of four and started composing when he was eight. He became interested in jazz during his first semester at Grinnell College in Iowa, left Grinnell to perform and eventually continued his studies at the New England Conservatory, where he was named to the faculty upon graduation.
His earliest performances were with Art Farmer in Los Angeles in 1978, and seven years later, he released the first of his many recordings, with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Joey Baron. He has continued to perform widely with his trio, as a soloist, and as an accompanist for artists as diverse as saxophonist Joe Henderson, opera singer Renée Fleming and Broadway star Audra McDonald.
Also known as a composer, Hersch often includes his own works in his concerts and recordings. In 2003, he won a Guggenheim for composition and that year created Leaves of Grass, a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman’s poetry for two voices (Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry) and an instrumental octet.
In 2008, Hersch developed HIV-induced dementia and fell into a two-month coma. When he regained consciousness, he could not play the piano but made a complete recovery after intense rehabilitation. His 2011 production My Coma Dreams, based on dreams he retained after emerging from the coma, was a full-evening work for 11 instruments, actor/singer and animation/multimedia.
He has been an active spokesman and fundraiser for AIDS services and education agencies since 1993.
Tickets for the performance are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors. Students are welcome free. For advance tickets, send a check -- made out to 'Afternoon Music' -- to the Unitarian Church at 4 Waldron Avenue, Summit, NJ, 07901.
The series is funded in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, through a grant administered by the Union County Division of Cultural & Heritage Affairs.