Jazz Master Fred Hersch Wins French Arts Awards - KeyboardMag

Jazz Master Fred Hersch Wins French Arts Awards

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Pianist and composer Fred Hersch has won the Prix in Honorem Jazz as well as the Coup de cœur jazz from l'Académie Charles Cros 2017 (prize in honor of jazz from l'Académie Charles Cros). The prize honors the totality of Hersch’s career on the occasion of the release of his solo disc, Open Book (Palmetto Records, September 8, 2017), and of his autobiography, Good Things Happen Slowy: A Life in and Out of Jazz (Crown/Archetype, September 12, 2017). 

Hersch has also won the Coup de cœur jazz for his recording Open Book.

“I am so honored to be recognized by l'Académie Charles Cros,” says Hersch. “The Académie has been a generous and long-time supporter of my work and I am humbled and grateful for these major honors.”

As French journalist Xavier Prévost writes in the press release issued by l'Académie Charles Cros:

“Each time one hears Fred Hersch (especially solo), one is struck by the type of magic which imposes itself from the opening measures: by the strong counterpoint in the left hand, while the right hand lays out, comments on, and extends the melodic field (the song). The clarity of the lines which progress in complete independence, and yet with absolute coherence, reminds me each time of Glenn Gould, who in a challenging, defiant way mixed dizziness and legibility. And also Lennie Tristano, another example of the direct connection between one’s fingers and the musical thought. And however, there’s nothing abstract: sensuality and lyricism come from the same voice. This musical miracle takes place whatever the material: an original composition, dreamy as much as sinuous; a jazz classic from the 50’s (Whisper Not); a bossa nova that has often been reworked (Zingaro, alias Retrato Em Barnco E Preto, also known as Portrait in Black and White), played the way one plays a prelude and fugue of Bach, but while forgetting the division between them; even a totally free improvisation (Through the Forest), recorded in concert, where the vertigo becomes unfathomable. And it’s all pleasant, including Eronel by Thelonious Monk (the pianist loves to go in that direction, notably at the end of a performance). To conclude, Fred Hersch offers us a piano version of a song by Billy Joel, And So It Goes, as if to remind us of his attachment to song. Everything is played with a devotion to jazz, and with the great freedom of interpretation and even of metamorphosis that that music offers.

One can retrace the life of this rare musician by reading (in English at the moment) the autobiography that he has just published: Good Things Happen Slowly, A Life in and Out of Jazz (Crown Archetype). There one discovers the singular journey of an artist who, in his personal life as well as in his musical life, employs all his energy to become himself. Music in general, and jazz in particular, are invoked in these pages with force and lucidity, notably through the portraits, and descriptions of meeting with major artists: Jaki Byard, the encyclopedic professor of jazz piano at New England Conservatory in Boston; McCoy Tyner, who after a concert made himself accessible to the admiration of a young musician. What follows, chapter to chapter, hides nothing of a life which had its moments of suffering and grave illness. And yet Fred Hersch is here, and well, more alive than ever, even more accomplished in his art!

The Prix in Honorem permits us to celebrate a complete artist who has issued under his name dozens of discs, who has also tackled chamber music, and who has been the pianistic accompaniment to the great jazz voices (Norma Winstone, Jeri Brown, Jay Clayton, Janis Siegel) but also the great opera voices (Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw).” 

About Fred Hersch

A select member of jazz’s piano pantheon, Fred Hersch is a pervasively influential creative force who has shaped the music’s course over more than three decades as an improviser, composer, educator, bandleader, collaborator and recording artist. A ten-time Grammy Award nominee, he continues to earn jazz’s most prestigious awards, including recent distinctions as a 2016 Doris Duke Artist and 2016 Jazz Pianist of the Year from the Jazz Journalists Association. 

Hersch has long defined jazz’s creative edge in a wide variety of settings, from his breathtaking solo recitals and exploratory duos to his extraordinary trios and innovative chamber settings. With some three dozen albums to his credit as a leader or co-leader, he consistently wins an international array of awards and lavish critical praise for his albums. The 2015 Palmetto album Fred Hersch SOLO, his tenth solo disc won the French Grand Prix de Disque de L’Académie de Jazz. His 2016 release, Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto), is a definitive statement by his long-running trio with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson; it earned Hersch two Grammy nominations. His newest solo CD is Open Book.

Hersch has earned similar distinction with his writing, garnering a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship in Composition. He’s collaborated with an astonishing range of artists throughout the worlds of jazz (Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Bill Frisell); classical (Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Christopher O'Riley); and Broadway (Audra McDonald). Long admired for his sympathetic work with singers, Hersch has joined with such notable jazz vocalists as Nancy King, Janis Siegel, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Norma Winstone and Kurt Elling.

The feature documentary The Ballad of Fred Hersch premiered at the prestigious Full Frame Film Festival in March 2016 to a sold-out house and rave reviews and is now streaming on Vimeo. His memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, was published 2017 by Crown Books/Random House.

About The Académie Charles-Cros

The Académie Charles-Cros, (Charles Cros Academy) is an organization located in Chézy-sur-Marne, France, that acts as an intermediary between government cultural policy makers and professionals in music and the recording industry.

The Academy is composed of fifty members specializing in music criticism, sound recording, and culture. It was founded in 1947 by Roger Vincent with Armand Panigel, José Bruyr, Antoine Goléa, Franck Ténot, and Pierre Brive – critics and recording specialists - and led by musicologist Marc Pincherle. It was named in honor of Charles Cros (1842–1888), inventor and poet (friend of Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine) who was one of the pioneers of sound recording.

The Academy continues to stay abreast of advances in technology, from the development of 78 RPM gramophone records to CDs, DVDs, playable torrents and all other readable, transportable music formats available today.

Every year since 1948, the Academy has given out its grand prize, the Grand Prix du Disque, to recognize outstanding achievements in recorded music and musical scholarship. Prizes are awarded in the field of popular song, classical music, jazz, and other categories of recorded music, as well as for outstanding books of musicology. Categories vary from year to year, and multiple awards are often made in one category in the same year.

Hersch will appear in concert in Paris at Sunside in Paris at 9 pm, November 21 and 22, 2017.

For a full touring schedule go to http://www.fredhersch.com.