Fred Hersch

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2016

New York, NY

Fred Hersch began playing the piano at age four and started composing at eight. Deemed “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade,” (Vanity Fair) he has earned eight Grammy nominations as jazz pianist and composer. His latest trio recording with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson, Floating (Palmetto, 2014) was nominated for two Grammys (Best Jazz Album and Best Jazz Solo). His theatrical piece My Coma Dreams (2010) is based on visions he had during a two-month coma, and features an actor/singer, 11 instrumentalists, and multimedia elements. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Chamber Music America French-American Jazz Exchange award, and was named Jazz Pianist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2011, among others. He is a spokesperson and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies, raising more than $300,000 over two decades. He is on the Jazz Studies faculty at Rutgers University.

  • Photo Credit: Vincent Soyez
    Fred Hersch
  • Fred Hersch- Whirl (Palmetto Records, 2010):
    Whirl (Palmetto Records, 2010)
  • Fred Hersch- "West Virginia Rose / Down Home" from Floating (Palmetto Records, 2016):
    "West Virginia Rose / Down Home" from Floating (Palmetto Records, 2016)
  • Fred Hersch- "Lee's Dream" from Trio +2 (Palmetto Records, 2004, performed 2016):
    "Lee's Dream" from Trio +2 (Palmetto Records, 2004, performed 2016)
  • Fred Hersch- "Dream of Monk" from My Coma Dreams (Palmetto Records, 2011):
    "Dream of Monk" from My Coma Dreams (Palmetto Records, 2011)
  • Fred Hersch- "The Knitters" from My Coma Dreams (Palmetto Records, 2011):
    "The Knitters" from My Coma Dreams (Palmetto Records, 2011)
  • "Arcata" from Floating (Palmetto Records, 2014)
  • "West Virginia Rose / Home Fries" from Floating (Palmetto Records, 2014)
  • Photo Credit: Steve J. Sherman
    Fred Hersch

Artistically, what do you do and why do you do it?

As a child, I always loved to improvise and compose - usually in the style of whatever I was listening to at the time: classical music, show tunes, 1960's pop music. When I discovered the world of jazz in my late teens I was convinced that I had found the perfect language to improvise with others. I think I always had my own voice in jazz music - based on those childhood experiences. There is something very powerful, almost intoxicating, when one creates something completely in the moment in front of an audience - and I never grow tired of it. I try to being the improvisatory spirit to my compositions - whatever the genre - and it is always a challenge and a journey to try to write down something that will stand up over and over. I am most happy when someone says that I moved them - or that a tune or concert piece or an album gives them back more each time they hear it. I have a great job: I make stuff up and make people happy.