Fred Hersch

COMPOSERS: Fred Hersch
LABELS: Nonesuch
WORKS: Passion Flower: Fred Hersch plays Billy Strayhorn
PERFORMER: Fred Hersch (p); Drew Gress (b); Tom Rainey (d) plus string orchestra directed by Eric Stern on three tracks
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79395-2
Fred Hersch will probably go down in jazz history as the first jazz musician to come out as HIV-positive and to actively campaign against AIDS, rather than for the supple Romanticism of his piano-playing that for years has been one of the unsung delights of the New York jazz scene. Although he has recorded on a host of small independent record companies, major label recognition has been a long time coming. Hersch, unlike many youthful signings, is ready for the closer scrutiny his appearance on a larger stage will bring. He’s paid his dues in some of the Big Apple’s less elegant jazz spots and now there are more differences than similarities in his playing to that of Bill Evans, with whom he is often compared. He does share Evans’s elegant lyricism, however. It is a gift that cannot be substituted for technique, as many young jazz musicians, such as Wynton Marsalis, eventually discover. Stuart Nicholson