Hersch plays four nights of studio jazz at Mondavi

By From page A9 | October 31, 2013


Who: Jazz pianist Fred Hersch and his trio

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 6-9

Where: Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: Starting at $42 general, $19 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787

Jazz pianist Fred Hersch — a prolific artist whose albums have accrued a slew of award nominations and critical accolades in recent years — will perform with his trio on four evenings in the Mondavi Center’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre. Performance dates and times are Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 6-9, at 8 p.m.

The concerts will be presented in the Studio Theatre’s popular club-like cabaret configuration, with small tables surrounded by four chairs, and beverage service.

Hersch was born in 1955 in Cincinnati. He began playing the piano at age 4, began composing at age 7 and started winning piano competitions at age 10. As a college student, he enrolled at Grinnell College in Iowa, but dropped out; he soon moved to New York, determined to have a career as a jazz pianist and composer.

Soon, he was working with jazz artists like Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Toots Thielemans, Joe Henderson and Jane Ira Bloom. Hersch gradually became recognized as a solo artist, and has been honored with seven compositional residencies at the MacDowell Colony, a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, a Rockefeller Fellowship, five Grammy Award nominations, a faculty position in the jazz studies department at the New England Conservatory, and other recognitions.

Hersch’s albums — and there have been dozens over the years — have been picked for “best of the year” lists again and again by jazz critics. He’s given a sold-out concert at Zankel Hall (part of the Carnegie Hall complex) and was the first solo pianist to perform in a weeklong residency at the Village Vanguard.

Hersch also came back from a close brush with death in 2008, when he lingered unconscious for two months in a hospital, due to complications stemming from AIDS. He subsequently recovered and returned to performing, and in 2011 created a full-evening work for 11 instruments titled “My Coma Dreams.”

He has released three albums with his trio since 2010, including 2012’s “Alive at the Vanguard” (a two-CD set), which was nominated for a Grammy, won the Grand Prix du Disque (a French award) and was picked as one of the best CDs of the year by Downbeat, which dubbed him “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation.”

Hersch’s music has been featured repeatedly on NPR jazz programs, on the air and online.

Hersch was profiled in a lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, which etched his personal style in these terms: “Never a grandstander, unconcerned with publicity, Hersch has been a fiercely independent but unassuming presence on the New York jazz scene since he moved to the city at age 21 in 1977.”  The New York Times Magazine profile actually includes only a few short quotes from Hersch himself.

In addition to Hersch at the keyboard, the trio includes bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. Besides leading groups of his own, Hébert, a Louisiana native, has in recent years played sideman roles with pianist Uri Caine and guitarist Mary Halvorson.

McPherson, too, is a busy man: he cut his teeth with the great Jackie McLean and has since supported the likes of Andrew Hill, Pharaoh Sanders, Jason Moran and Greg Osby.

Tickets start at $42 general, $19 for UC Davis students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787. Tickets for Friday and Saturday performances are in very short supply.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055. Follow him on Twitter at @JeffHudsonDE

Jeff Hudson

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