Jazz Master

Article excerpt

At 42, pianist Fred Hersch has

established himself as one of music's

most accomplished jazz musicians and

composers. He is also one of the

genre's few openly gay artists. Six

years ago, after announcing his HIV-positive

status, Hersch entered one of

the most prolific periods of his career.

His two most recent releases include

Thelonius: Fred Hersch Plays Monk and Fred

Hersch & Friends: The Duo Album, a benefit

CD from which all proceeds go to the

organization Classical Action:

Performing Arts Against AIDS. Hersch

talked with The Advocate on the eve of a

national tour in support of his latest work.

Thelonius Monk seems like one of the

most difficult artists to interpret. His

compositions are so quirky and

complex. Why did you choose him?

It was a big challenge. I think a lot of

people are scared off by him for fear

of sounding too much like him or not

enough. But at 42, 1 don't care what

critics think.

You don't?

Well, I want them to love me. But I

don't have anything

to prove. My reputation

is what it is.

It seems that a lot of

gay men are put off by

jazz because either

they don't believe it

speaks to their own

experience or they

believe the genre itself

to be somehow

intolerant of

homosexuality.

I think that's a generalization. …