Fred Hersch

Music, Jazz
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Fred Hersch
Photograph: Mark Niskanen
Fred Hersch

Most artists who’ve had a brush with death will admit it tends to add a whole new level of urgency to their creative drive. For Fred Hersch, diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and coma-stricken for two months in 2008, brush doesn’t even begin to describe his experience—it’s been more like a prolonged dance—nor does urgency seem adequate in assessing his feverishly prolific output of the past 25 years. “I just wanted to put a lot of stuff out there to make sure that people heard me,” the jazz pianist explains in the 2008 documentary Let Yourself Go: The Lives of Fred Hersch. “If I died or if I got sick, I wanted to say, ‘Okay, this is a body of work. Maybe people will remember me.’ ”

Lauded for his lyrical genius, technical elegance and instinctive feel for virtually everything he plays, Hersch, now 56, will likely never be forgotten. Four of his six nights at Jazz Standard showcase his daunting versatility in a duo setting, with a harmonic convergence of talent that features MacArthur “genius” saxophonist Miguel Zenón (May 22), trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (May 23), guitar prodigy Julian Lage (May 24) and soul-jazz vocalist Rene Marie (May 27). On May 25 and 26, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Billy Hart join Hersch for the trio event of the season; the three have never before played together (and if they haven’t yet considered a live album titled H3O, they should), but Hart has shared separate dates with Holland and Hersch, so expect sparks to fly fast.—Bill Murphy

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