ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Fred Hersch is an American jazz pianist and composer. Proclaimed by Vanity Fair magazine “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade or so,” five-time Grammy nominee Hersch balances his internationally recognized instrumental skills with significant achievements as a composer, bandleader, and theatrical conceptualist, as well as remaining an in-demand collaborator with other noted bandleaders and vocalists. Hersch was the first artist in the seventy-five-year history of New York’s legendary Village Vanguard to play week-long engagements as a solo pianist. His second run is documented on the 2011 CD, Alone at the Vanguard, which garnered him two Grammy nominations — for Best Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo — and won the Coup de Coeur from France’s Académie Charles Cros. He is the leader of a widely praised trio, whose album Whirl found its way onto numerous 2010 best-recordings-of-the-year lists. His newest trio album, the two-CD Alive at the Vanguard, has been reaping wide critical acclaim as one of the best releases of his thirty-year recording career. Alive at the Vanguard has been awarded the 2012 Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros, and it was named one of the Best CDs of 2012 by Downbeat magazine.
Hersch is considered to be the most prolific and celebrated solo jazz pianist of his generation. In addition to his more than three dozen recordings as a leader or co-leader, Hersch’s numerous accolades include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition, a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition, and two Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance. His eighth solo disc, 2009’s Fred Hersch Plays Jobim, was cited as one of the year’s Top Ten jazz releases by NPR and the Wall Street Journal. In 2011, Hersch was named Jazz Pianist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association; the same year, he placed fourth in the Downbeat Critics Poll.
Hersch’s career as a performer has been greatly enhanced by his composing activities. In 2003, he created Leaves of Grass, a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman’s poetry for two voices (Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry premiered the work) and an instrumental octet; the work was presented in March 2005 in a sold-out performance at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall as part of a six-city US tour. More than seventy of his jazz compositions have been recorded, by Hersch himself and by numerous other artists. His 2010 multimedia theatrical project My Coma Dreams is a full-evening work for actor/singer, eleven instrumentalists, and animation/computer-generated imagery; it was based on dreams he retained after emerging from a two-month coma in the summer of 2008.
Hersch has collaborated with an astonishing range of instrumentalists and vocalists from 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, Norma Winstone, and Kurt Elling. He has received commissions from the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, the Doris Duke Foundation, the Miller Theatre at Columbia University, the Gramercy Trio, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
Born in Cincinnati in 1955, Hersch began playing the piano at age four; he was composing music by age eight and winning national piano competitions by age ten. He has been awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship; grants from Chamber Music America, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Meet the Composer; and seven composition residencies at the MacDowell Colony. In addition to a wide variety of National Public Radio programs including Fresh Air, Jazz Set, Studio 360 and Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, Hersch has also appeared on CBS Sunday Morning with Dr. Billy Taylor. A committed educator, Hersch has taught at The New School and the Manhattan School of Music, and conducted a professional training workshop for young musicians at the Weill Institute at Carnegie Hall in 2008. He is currently on the jazz studies faculty of the New England Conservatory.
A passionate spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies since 1993, Hersch has produced and performed on numerous benefit recordings and concerts for charities that to date have raised over $250,000. An artist of unbounded imagination, ambition and skill, Hersch is, as Downbeat magazine aptly declared, “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation.”
Soprano saxophonist/composer Jane Ira Bloom has been steadfastly developing her unique voice on the soprano saxophone for over thirty years. She is a pioneer in the use of live electronics and movement in jazz, and Pulse magazine has said she possesses “one of the most gorgeous tones and hauntingly lyrical ballad conceptions of any soprano saxophonist”
Bloom’s continuing commitment to innovation in her music has led to collaborations with such outstanding jazz artists as Kenny Wheeler, Charlie Haden, Ed Blackwell, Rufus Reid, Matt Wilson, Bob Brookmeyer, Julian Priester, Jerry Granelli, Matt Wilson, Jay Clayton, Mark Dresser, Bobby Previte, and Fred Hersch. She has also spearheaded collaborative world music groups featuring virtuosi Min Xioa-Fen on Chinese pipa, South Indian veena artist Geetha Ramanathan Bennett, and Korean komungo player Jin Hi Kim. She has performed at such diverse venues as Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Kennedy Center, the United Nations, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Smithsonian’s Einstein Planetarium, and the Montreal, JVC, and San Francisco jazz festivals, as well as regular club engagements in New York City and tours of England, Portugal, Switzerland, and Brazil with her current quartet.
She has garnered numerous awards for her creativity, including a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship in music composition and a 2009 residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Bloom won the 2007 Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Award for lifetime service to jazz. She won the Jazz Journalists Award for Soprano Sax of the Year in 2001, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2012, as well as the Downbeat International Critics Poll for soprano saxophone, the Charlie Parker Fellowship for Jazz Innovation, and the International Women in Jazz Masters Award. Bloom is the first musician ever commissioned by the NASA Art Program, and an asteroid was named in her honor by the International Astronomical Union. In 2009, a new jazz festival in Brooklyn was named in her honor.
A strong visual thinker and a cinematic stylist, Bloom’s affinity for other art forms such as painting, film, theatre, and dance has both enriched her music and brought her into contact with other innovative artists such as actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Joanne Woodward, painter Dan Namingha, comic Lewis Black, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and legendary dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade. Bloom has composed for the American Composers Orchestra and the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble; for the Pilobolus, Paradigm, and Philadanco Dance Companies; and for soundtracks of feature films (John Sayles’s Silver City) and TV movies (Shadow of A Doubt on NBC-TV) Much of her work for large ensemble has involved her signature movement techniques.
Bloom has also collaborated with classical composers, premiering new works for soprano saxophone, including Sinfonia by Augusta Read Thomas. She has curated a discussion/performance series on improvisation at New York’s Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination, presenting a wide range of programs including collaborations with Carmen de Lavallade and bassist Rufus Reid, performances with pianist Fred Hersch and bassist Drew Gress, and panel discussions with neuroscientist Josh McDermott and Arabic music scholar Taoufik Ben Amor. The Philadelphia Music Project commissioned her premiere of Unexpected Light, a unique collaboration of improvised sound and light with world renowned lighting designer James F. Ingalls.
Bloom has received numerous grants, including two artist fellowships in jazz composition from the Chamber Music America/Doris Duke New Jazz Works Program.
Bloom continues to find inspiration in creating exploratory music with improvising musicians from around the world. Recently, she participated in several international and “remote” events directed by bassist Mark Dresser and composer Sarah Weaver. The performances, at the United Nations, linked a large ensemble of improvising musicians in Korea, China, New York, and San Diego.
Bloom has recorded and produced fifteen albums. In 1976 she founded her own record label and publishing company. She has been the subject of a number of media profiles and has been featured on CBS TV’s Sunday Morning; Talkin’ Jazz on NBC-TV; on NPR’s Morning Edition, Jazzset, Live From the Kennedy Center with Dr. Billy Taylor, and in the documentary film Reed Royalty hosted by Branford Marsalis.
Bloom was featured in TIME Magazine’s 1990 special issue Women: The Road Ahead. She was interviewed in the 2004 book and CD compilation Jazzwomen: Conversations with Twenty-One Musicians. She has appeared in the Library of Congress’s annual Women Who Dare calendar and in Life Magazine’s “Living Jazz Legends.”
Bloom is a professor at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. She holds degrees from Yale University and the Yale School of Music, and studied saxophone with woodwind virtuoso Joseph Viola. Nat Hentoff has called Bloom an artist “beyond category.” Bill Milkowski has called her “A true jazz original... a restlessly creative spirit, and a modern-day role model for any aspiring musician who dares to follow his or her own vision.”