74 minutes, HD, 2016
The Ballad of Fred Hersch is an intimate portrait of one of today’s foremost jazz pianists. With more than 30 albums and 8 Grammy nominations under his belt, Hersch is internationally revered in jazz circles as a master improviser. A maverick in music and in life, he was the first jazz musician to come out as gay and HIV-positive in the early 1990s, and he miraculously survived a two-month AIDS-related coma in 2008. Both exacting and full of love, our unfettered cameras capture Hersch’s creative process as he does double duty as a workaday jazzman and first-time theater producer—turning his tragedies into triumphal art.
About Fred Hersch
As a solo pianist, composer, bandleader, and theatrical conceptualist, Fred Hersch lives up to the praise of the New York Times, who, in a featured Sunday Magazine piece, aptly declared him, “singular among the trailblazers of their art, a largely unsung innovator of this borderless, individualistic jazz – a jazz for the 21st century.” With three-dozen recordings as a leader/co-leader, and numerous awards including a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, and being named Jazz Pianist of the Year 2011 by The Jazz Journalists Association, he is also the first artist in the 75-year history of New York’s legendary Village Vanguard to play weeklong engagements as a solo pianist. He has received eight Grammy® nominations – as pianist and composer (two in 2012 for his historic Alone at the Vanguard). Hersch is among the most admired of contemporary jazz musicians, having collaborated with an astonishing range of instrumentalists and vocalists throughout worlds of jazz (Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Stan Getz and Bill Frisell); classical (Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Christopher O’Riley); and Broadway (Audra McDonald). He has been dubbed by Vanity Fair magazine as “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade or so” and he has been an obvious influence on a new generation of pianists. The leader of a celebrated trio whose Floating received two 2014 Grammy® Nominations, he also placed as #3 Jazz Pianist in the 2015 Downbeat Critic’s Poll. In 2011, Hersch mounted the ambitious production, “My Coma Dreams,” a critically-acclaimed full-evening multimedia work available on DVD. His newest release Fred Hersch SOLO has received rave reviews: All About Jazz says “When it comes to the art of solo piano in jazz, there are currently two classes of performers: Fred Hersch and everybody else.”