Return of a Jazz Giant

April 15, 2011 | CUNY Lecture Series, Graduate Center

Jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch, hailed by Downbeat as “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation,” has been living with AIDS since the early 1990s, and during the same time has recorded a portfolio of work the New York Times calls a “manifesto of contemporary jazz.” But in 2008, Hersch fell into a near fatal AIDS-related coma, which left him in mental and physical seclusion. “I was very fearful that I would never be able to express myself at the piano the way I’ve been doing my whole life,” says Hersch, in a conversation with music critic Gary Giddins at the Graduate Center. But with intensive therapy and rehabilitation, Hersch learned to walk — and play the piano — again. What was most important, says Hersch, was “to get back on the horse as soon as I could.”
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