The Velocity of Fred

By Weiser, Jay | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), August 31, 1999 | Go to article overview

The Velocity of Fred


Weiser, Jay, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


With a cool new CD and hot club dates, pianist Fred Hersch is jamming on the A-list of jazz

"Im glad I got that over with," says pianist Fred Hersch, who came out in the media six years ago as an HIV-positive gay man. "Now it's about the music and not about my personal issues," he tells The Advocate. "The music's better."

Hersch continues to develop as one of the most distinctive performers in the hetero stronghold of jazz. He's also one of the most prolific: During the course of his 20-year-plus career, Hersch has produced 16 albums as a soloist or bandleader and has been coleader on another 11. In May he released his fifth solo piano CD for Nonesuch Records, the live Boston concert recording Fred Hersch at Jordan Hall: Let Yourself Go. The disk has what Hersch calls "some homo interest titles"--the "Love Theme From Spartacus," for one. Even more interesting than his gay-tinged song choices is the evolution of his style. On ballads you can still hear the classical and Bill Evans influences from his earlier work. But on up-tempo numbers like Kurt Weill's "Speak Low" and the title cut, an Irving Berlin tune, Hersch reveals an exuberant polyphony and a killer left hand that bring jazz piano legend Art Tatum to mind. "I have three or four voices going, always," Hersch says. "I like you to hear all the different lines. …

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