Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

10

Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
Fred Hersch
307 Pages
ISBN: #9781101904343
Crown Archetype Press
2017

Disclaimer #1: Like the author, I harbor a blood pathogen (he HIV, me Leukemia) that is intent on killing me.

Disclaimer #2: Being of similar age, the author's discovery of jazz as an art form very much paralleled mine.

It was September 4, 2015, and I was in attendance at the annual Chicago Jazz Festival. Pianist Fred Hersch and his trio of John Herbert and Eric McPherson were performing in Millennium Park at the stunning Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by architect Frank Gehry. The occasion was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights milestone that lends not only protections to those with disabilities like HIV and cancer, but shields them from discrimination. Maybe it was the night or the observance of the ADA's milestone, but, like many in the audience, Hersch's music brought tears to my eyes. Here was a trio performing at the highest level and with an energy that, to paraphrase Thelonious Monk, "lifted the bandstand."

The pianist's story is a remarkable one. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1955 to a lawyer father and a Smith College graduate mother, Hersch was attracted to and encouraged to play music at a young age. While classical music was his education, he must have believed he had invented improvisation as he made a habit out of "faking" the parts he was not interested in practicing. He also was attracted to other boys, but had no information or role models at the time for guidance. He became a local celebrity at 10, winning first prize at a competition, and from there being asked to perform on television. At the time, he most definitely would not have known that Fats Waller was the host of Fats Waller's Rhythm Club, a show that was nationally broadcast from Cincinnati's WLW, from 1932-34. Certainly, the jazz germ was planted in Ohio by the local jazzmen. His classical lessons were supplemented with bits of jazz, and by his late teens, Hersch was listening to Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, and Bill Evans. After a brief stay at Grinnell College in Iowa, a school that both Herbie Hancock and Gary Giddins attended, he returned to Cincinnati and immersed himself in the local scene.

Hersch's story of his discovery of improvisation and his sexual identity also parallels the institutionalization of jazz education, the fabrication of jazz as a post-modern marketing device, and the recognition of LGBT rights in America. His experience with the jazzmen of Cincinnati as the keepers of the flame bridged into his education at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where Jaki Byard and Gunther Schuller were creating a brand new way for the jazz performers to get "schooled." His experience straddling both institutional learning and a bandstand education gave Hersch a unique perspective on the state of jazz in the late 1970s and early '80s. Where he sought out the living jazz masters like Jimmy Rowles, Joe Henderson and Tommy Flanagan who were all but ignored by the major record labels because they were signing the "Young Lions," institutionally trained and marketing friendly attractive striplings. It's not that Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis weren't talented, it's just that somehow music buyers were persuaded to believe these two brothers had originated the music they played, while masters like Sonny Rollins and Freddie Hubbard, still at the top of their game, were ignored. Hersch's apprenticeship with the masters, and his stint in formal education, gives us a historical prospective on the current state of this music. He details his persistent approach elbowing his way into the jazz scene in New York and his dogged determination to be heard, not as a Young Lion or a classicist, but as himself.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Whirl

Whirl

Fred Hersch
Fred Hersch Solo

West Virginia Rose / Home Fries

West Virginia Rose / Home Fries

Fred Hersch
Floating

Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
In Pictures
Album Reviews
Interviews
Live Reviews
Book Reviews
Album Reviews
Bailey's Bundles
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Live In Europe

Live In Europe

Palmetto Records
2018

buy
Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard

Fred Hersch Trio '97...

Palmetto Records
2018

buy
Open Book

Open Book

Palmetto Records
2017

buy
Sunday Night at the Vanguard

Sunday Night at the...

Palmetto Records
2016

buy
Sarabande

Sarabande

Sunnyside Records
2016

buy
Solo

Solo

Palmetto Records
2015

buy

Upcoming Shows

Date Detail Price
Mar29Fri
Fred Hersch Trio
Jazz Forum
Tarrytown, NY
Mar29Fri
Fred Hersch Trio
Jazz Forum
Tarrytown, NY
Mar30Sat
Fred Hersch Trio
Jazz Forum
Tarrytown, NY
Mar30Sat
Fred Hersch Trio
Jazz Forum
Tarrytown, NY
Apr5Fri
Fred Hersch Trio
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild
Pittsburgh, PA
$53.50
Apr10Wed
Fred Hersch And Friends
Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Davis, CA
$65
Apr11Thu
Fred Hersch And Friends
Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
Davis, CA
$65

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Book Reviews
Ziga Koritnik: Cloud Arrangers
By Nenad Georgievski
February 3, 2019
Book Reviews
Ricochet: David Bowie 1983
By Nenad Georgievski
February 2, 2019
Book Reviews
Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story by Randy Fox
By C. Michael Bailey
February 2, 2019
Book Reviews
Billie Holiday: Lady Sings The Blues
By Ian Patterson
January 16, 2019
Book Reviews
Tracy Fessenden: Religion Around Billie Holiday
By Steve Provizer
January 8, 2019
Book Reviews
Sonny Rollins: Meditating on a Riff
By Steve Provizer
December 31, 2018
Book Reviews
Dexter Gordon: Portrait of a Sophisticated Giant
By Steve Provizer
December 30, 2018