Ron "Ran" Waite Wing

In Concert: Fred Hersch

Fred Hersch and link to his website. 

In Concert: Fred Hersch
by Ran

Pianist Fred Hersch is considered one of the foremost jazz artists in the world today. His career started after graduating from Boston's New England Conservatory with Honors in 1977. From there he went on to play piano with some of the most acclaimed names in jazz. So far, his talent has earned him two Grammy nominations, a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, a Rockefeller Fellowship at the Bellagio Center in Italy and a place in musical history. He performs at the best concert halls in the world, teaches students at some of the most renown music schools, and continues to find time to compose and record. As a solo artist he has recorded more than two dozen albums and contributed to some eighty further recordings.

On October 11, 2006, this OUT musician was the guest solo artist for the Eastman Chamber Jazz series. He performed in the très beau Kilbourn Hall, at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. Kilbourn Hall, with its polished wood panel walls, ornate ceiling and stadium seating is an imposing space to perform in, but worthy of someone of Mr. Hersch's stature. Fred's introduction was made by Harold Danko (Chair, Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media Department), who quipped, "We have a real pianist to play tonight." It was amazing that the room was as quiet as a mouse while this virtuoso played--it had a stunning and dramatic effect.

Solo piano isn't the sexiest instrument, I actually prefer to hear it accompanied by other sounds (instruments or vocals). 

As pianist David Nevue has said, "playing the piano isn't just about hitting the right notes, it's about expression. It's a tool to express emotion, thought, and longing." Fred Hersch did just that, express himself through a series of tunes, including "Work" by Thelonious Monk, "I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby" by Fats Waller and "My Old Man" by Joni Mitchell. His playing fascinated me, mainly because he played with his eyes closed! His enthusiasm for the music was outwardly demonstrated; his body was in constant motion, he rocked, swayed and moved to the rhythms that he heard. I felt that this performance showed off his piano playing skills, as much as his jazz sensibility. Some of the music this evening transported me to various times and places in my life--and it were his interpretations that made this possible. My favorite pieces of the evening were "At The Close Of The Day" (a Fred Hersch composition based upon the words of Walt Whitman), two atmospheric songs sandwiched together: Russ Freeman's "The Wind" and Alex Wilder's "Moon and Sand", Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo", his own tune: "A Lark," which he dedicates to trumpet player Kenny Wheeler, plus Benny Golson's "Whisper Not." These songs offered a variety of musical styles and they made me happy. His choice of tunes reflected his respect of jazz legends and his subliminal recognition of gay contributions to music.

I was not the only individual who appreciated his talents. After thunderous applause, he returned to the stage, bowed at the waist and played Billy Strayhorn's elegant "Lotus Blossom" as his encore. This concert was at the end of a three day residency at the Eastman School of Music, and as he put it "It's really been nice." I'm glad that I had the opportunity to hear him in concert, musicians of this caliber don't pass through upstate New York all that often. You may find this jazz master at

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