Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fred Hersch

Great NYT profile of Fred Hersch, the gay jazz pianist whose amazing survival of a two-month long AIDS-related coma and a host of other problems related to the disease is informing his new work and a career still going strong.

Hersch, among the most sensitive of jazz pianists, is acutely sensitive to the proposition that his sensitivity makes his music “gay.” I took up the subject on a walk with him along the gravel path behind his country house. We heard hummingbirds in the beech trees and got to talking about nature and the conception of beauty as a value in gay culture. “I wouldn’t quite say that’s bull, but it’s a very dangerous idea,” Hersch said, slowing his gait. “The compliment I get the most often is, ‘My, you sounded really beautiful.’ I used to think, I want them to say something else, because I felt like that was a kind of, Oh, yeah, you’re gay — so of course you play lyrically and you’re one of the great ballad players. Of course. But now I just don’t care at all what people think. I think music should be beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with beauty. I’m attracted to beauty and lyricism, but I don’t play the way I do because I’m gay. I play the way I do because I’m Fred.”

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