“A brilliant technician, a thoughtful, elegant improviser, and an artist with a curious ear.”
DownBeat magazine called pianist and composer Fred Hersch "one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation" and he has earned a place among the foremost jazz artists in the world today, having solidified a reputation as a versatile master of jazz piano, as well as a relentlessly probing composer and conceptualist. He is widely recognized for his ability steadfastly to create a unique body of original works while reinventing the standard jazz repertoire – investing time-tested classics, particularly those by Thelonious Monk, with keen insight, fresh ideas and extraordinary technique. Whether unaccompanied, in duo, working with his trio, quintet or orchestral ensembles, Hersch has explored the jazz tradition to its fullest even as he opens new and undiscovered doors. Hersch's numerous accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition, and five Grammy® nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Best Instrumental Composition, and Best Jazz Album. He has appeared on over one hundred recordings, including more than two-dozen albums as bandleader or solo pianist.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Hersch began playing the piano as a four-year-old. Much to his teacher's chagrin, a career in jazz could have been foreshadowed by the young Fred's propensity to improvise on the work of classical masters. Broadway original cast albums and his grandmother's collection of sheet music fed an early interest in popular songs. Hersch's musical journey led him to Boston's New England Conservatory, where he graduated with honors in 1977. Heading south to New York City, Hersch quickly became one of the most in-demand pianists in town, while also working as a soloist and in duo settings at the late, lamented Bradley's. As a sideman, he has appeared with such outstanding jazz artists as saxophonists Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, and Jane Ira Bloom; flugelhornist Art Farmer; harmonica wizard Toots Thielemans; vibraphonist Gary Burton; bassists Sam Jones and Charlie Haden.