Presented in Collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center
Sat, July 9, 2016, 8:00pm
Due to predicted severe weather, this performance has moved from the Spanish Courtyard to the Venetian Theater.
Fred Hersch, whom Vanity Fair calls “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade or so,” gathers artists he admires deeply for what he promises to be “a fun evening of musical dialogue with musicians who share the joy of spontaneity at the highest level.” Grammy-nominated Chris Potter, saxophone, and Kate McGarry, vocals, join Hersch for this inventive night of music-making presented in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center.
“[Fred Hersch] specializes in high lyricism and high danger.” – The New Yorker
Proclaimed by Vanity Fair “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade,” Fred Hersch balances his internationally recognized instrumental and composing skills with significant achievements as a bandleader, collaborator and theatrical conceptualist. In 2006 he became the first artist in the 75-year history of New York’s legendary Village Vanguard to play a weeklong engagement as a solo pianist. His second solo run at the Vanguard was documented on the 2011 release Alone at the Vanguard, which received Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo—two of the eight Grammy nominations Hersch has earned in his more than three dozen recordings as a leader and co-leader.
Hersch’s latest trio CD with bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson, Floating (Palmetto) was nominated for two 2015 Grammy awards in the Best Jazz Album and Best Jazz Solo categories. It topped sales and radio charts after its release in July, 2014. “Mr. Hersch has been making acclaimed trio releases since his debut album as a leader, 30 years ago,” wrote Nate Chinen of The New York Times. “He hasn’t made one better than this…an extravagantly beautiful new album.” The trio’s two-CD set Alive at the Vanguard was awarded the 2012 Grand Prix du Disque by the Académie Charles Cros in France and named one of the year’s best CDs by Downbeat. Whirl, in 2010, also appeared on numerous best recordings lists..
An artist of unbounded imagination and ambition—”one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation,” as Downbeat put it—Hersch has gained great acclaim for his solo work. In 2006, Palmetto released Fred Hersch In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis and 2009 welcomed his eighth solo disc, Fred Hersch Plays Jobim, cited as one of the year’s Top Ten jazz releases by NPR and the Wall Street Journal. Alone won the Coup de Coeur de l’Académie Charles Cros in 2011, when the Jazz Journalists Association named Hersch its Jazz Pianist of the Year. In 2015 he was nominated for two JJA Awards – for Pianist and Small Ensemble of the Year for his trio; he also placed as #3 Jazz Pianist on the 2015 Downbeat Critic’s Poll. Of his new live disc, Fred Hersch SOLO, All About Jazz said “When it comes to the art of solo piano in jazz, there are two classes of performers: Fred Hersch and everybody else”.
Composing has been a vital and indelible part of Hersch’s live concerts and CDs. In 2003 he created Leaves of Grass (Palmetto Records), a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman’s poetry for two voices (Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry) and an instrumental octet; the work was presented to a sold-out Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2005 as part of a six-city U.S. tour. Hersch’s 2010 theatrical project, My Coma Dreams, has been performed in Montclair, N.J.; New York City; San Francisco and Berlin. Based on visions Hersch had during a two-month coma in 2008, it includes full-evening work for an actor/singer, 11 instrumentalists and animation/multimedia; Palmetto has released a DVD of the Columbia University performance from November 2014 (available on Amazon). A New York Times Sunday Magazine feature before the debut of My Coma Dreams praised Hersch as “singular among the trailblazers of their art, a largely unsung innovator of this borderless, individualistic jazz—a jazz for the 21st century.”
Hersch and numerous other artists have recorded more than 80 of his jazz compositions. A disc of his through-composed works, Fred Hersch: Concert Music 2001-2006, has been released by Naxos Records. The prestigious firm Edition Peters published these compositions.
In 2014, Hersch garnered his sixth Grammy nomination for his solo on “Duet” from Free Flying, a duo album with guitarist Julian Lage that received a rare 5-Star rating from Downbeat. Hersch has collaborated with an astonishing range of instrumentalists and vocalists throughout 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. Hersch has featured himself as either a solo performer or at the helm of varied small ensembles, which in addition to his trio include a quintet and as his Pocket Orchestra, an unconventional lineup of piano, trumpet, voice and percussion.
Born in Cincinnati on Oct. 21, 1955, Hersch began playing the piano at age four; he was composing at eight. His awards include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition; a Rockefeller Fellowship for a Bellagio residency; grants from Chamber Music America, The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet the Composer; seven composition residencies at The MacDowell Colony; and commissions from The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, The Doris Duke Foundation, Roomful of Teeth, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University, The Gramercy Trio and The Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Hersch has been a featured guest on CBS Sunday Morning with Dr. Billy Taylor as well as on a variety of National Public Radio programs, including Fresh Air, Jazz Set, Morning Edition, Studio 360 and Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz.
For two decades Hersch has been a passionate spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies. He has produced and performed on four benefit recordings and in numerous concerts for charities including Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; his efforts have raised more than $300,000. He has also been a keynote speaker and performer at international medical conferences in the U.S. and Europe.
A committed educator, Hersch has taught at New England Conservatory, The Juilliard School, 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 a member of the Jazz Studies faculty of Rutgers University. Hersch’s influence has been widely felt on a new generation of jazz pianists, from former students Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson to his colleague Jason Moran, who has said, “Fred at the piano is like LeBron James on the basketball court. He’s perfection.”
A world-class soloist, accomplished composer and formidable bandleader, saxophonist Chris Potter has emerged as a leading light of his generation. Down Beat called him “One of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet” while Jazz Times identified him as “a figure of international renown.” Jazz sax elder statesman Dave Liebman called him simply, “one of the best musicians around,” a sentiment shared by the readers of Down Beat in voting him second only to tenor sax great Sonny Rollins in the magazine’s 2008 Readers Poll.
A potent improvisor and the youngest musician ever to win Denmark’s Jazzpar Prize, Potter’s impressive discography includes 15 albums as a leader and sideman appearances on over 100 albums. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his solo work on “In Vogue,” a track from Joanne Brackeen’s 1999 album Pink Elephant Magic, and was prominently featured on Steely Dan’s Grammy-winning album from 2000, Two Against Nature. He has performed or recorded with many of the leading names in jazz, such as Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John Scofield, the Mingus Big Band, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, Ray Brown and many others.
His most recent recording, Ultrahang, is the culmination thus far of five years’ work with his Underground quartet with Adam Rogers on guitar, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, and Nate Smith on drums. Recorded in the studio in January 2009 after extensive touring, it showcases the band at its freewheeling yet cohesive best.
Since bursting onto the New York scene in 1989 as an 18-year-old prodigy with bebop icon Red Rodney (who himself had played as a young man alongside the legendary Charlie Parker), Potter has steered a steady course of growth as an instrumentalist and composer-arranger. Through the ’90s, he continued to gain invaluable bandstand experience as a sideman while also making strong statements as a bandleader-composer-arranger. Acclaimed outings like 1997’s Unspoken (with bassist and mentor Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and guitarist John Scofield), 1998’s Vertigo, 2001’s Gratitude and 2002’s Traveling Mercies showed a penchant for risk-taking and genre-bending. “For me, it just seemed like a way of opening up the music to some different things that I had been listening to but maybe hadn’t quite come out in my music before,” he explains.
Potter explored new territory on 2004’s partly electric Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard (with bassist Scott Colley, drummer Bill Stewart and keyboardist Kevin Hays) then pushed the envelope a bit further on 2006’s Underground (with guitarist Wayne Krantz, electric pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Nate Smith). As he told Jazz Times: “I’ve wanted to do something more funk-related…music that seems to be in the air, all around us. But also keep it as free as the freest jazz conception.”
He continued in this electrified, groove-oriented vein with 2007’s Follow The Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (with guitarist Adam Rogers replacing Krantz in the lineup). Says Potter of the adventurous new path he’s carved out for himself with his bass-less Underground quartet: “There was a point where I felt like the context I had been using before wasn’t quite working to express what I wanted or to move forward in some kind of way. My aesthetic as a saxophonist has always been based in Bird and Lester Young and Sonny Rollins and all the other greats on the instrument. What I’ve learned from them in terms of phrasing, sound, and approach to rhythm I’ll never outgrow. However music’s a living thing; it has to keep moving. I’ve been touched by many forms of music, like funk, hip hop, country, different folk musics, classical music, etc., and for me not to allow these influences into my music would be unnecessarily self-limiting. The difficulty is incorporating these sounds in an organic, unforced way. It helps me to remember I want people to feel the music, even be able to dance to it, and not think of it it as complicated or forbidding. If I can play something that has meaning for me, maybe I’ll be able to communicate that meaning to other people, and the stylistic questions will answer themselves.”
With the ambitious Song For Anyone (released in 2007 also and dedicated to the memory of Michael Brecker), Potter flexes his muscles as an arranger on original material for an expanded ensemble featuring strings and woodwinds. “That was a learning process,” he says of this triumphant tentet project, “because I hadn’t done anything on that scale before. I just decided to sit down and write, and it was extremely gratifying to see how it translated into live performance.”
Looking back over his 20 years since arriving in New York, Potter says, “I’ve had the chance to learn a lot from all the leaders that I’ve worked with. Each gave me another perspective on how to organize a band and make a statement. It’s taught me that any approach can work, as long as you have a strong vision of what you want to do.”
His initial gig with Red Rodney was an eye-opening and educational experience for the 18-year-old saxophonist. “I wish I had had the perspective I have now to appreciate what a larger-than-life character Red was.” Potter’s years with Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band represented a wholly different approach from Rodney’s old school bebop aesthetic on stage. “Motian has really had a big affect on the way that I think about music,” says the saxophonist. “He approaches things from such an anti-analytical way. It’s so different than so many of the other musicians that I’ve had a chance to work with. Motian more relies on his aesthetic sensibility and his instinct. He’s basically just trusting his gut and he’s so strong about it that he can make it work. And it takes a lot of courage to do that.”
From bassist-bandleader Dave Holland he learned about the importance of focus and willpower. “Dave is determined to make his music as strong as possible and present it in the best way,” says Potter, who has been a member of Holland’s groups for the past 10 years. “Playing with him, you have the feeling there’s this mountain standing behind you that you can completely rely on. Working with him over the years has helped me see the true value of believing in what you’re doing.”
Potter also cites his time on the bandstand with guitar legend Jim Hall as inspirational. “The way that he can be both melodic and sweet and deeply inventive and open-minded at the same time made a big impression on me,” he says. Touring and recording with the enigmatic duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker (Steely Dan) offered further insights into the artistic process. “They totally went their own way,” says Potter. “I have a lot of respect for them and their commitment to their art.”
And Potter has remained committed to his art since his formative years. Born in Chicago on Jan.1, 1971, his family moved to Columbia, South Carolina when he was 3. There he started playing guitar and piano before taking up the alto saxophone at age 10, playing his first gig at 13. When piano legend Marian McPartland first heard Chris at 15 years old, she told his father that Chris was ready for the road with a unit such as Woody Herman’s band, but finishing school was a priority. At age 18, Potter moved to New York to study at the New School and Manhattan School of Music, while also immersing himself in New York’s jazz scene and beginning his lifelong path as a professional musician.
Now a respected veteran (as well as a new father), Potter continues to work as a bandleader and featured sideman. Surely many interesting chapters await. As his longtime colleague, alto saxophonist-composer Dave Binney, told Down Beat, “Chris is open to anything now. From here on anything could happen.” -Bill Milkowski
With 6 critically acclaimed CDs and a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal CD Kate McGarry has become recognized as a jazz artist who brings authenticity and vitality to every song regardless of genre. The Wall St. Journal calls her, “Austere and elegant,” New York Times pronounced her music, “astute and sensitive”. She currently performs in jazz clubs, performing arts centers and festivals throughout the US and abroad. As an educator she has taught at New England Conservatory and currently serves on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music. Downbeat Magazine has cited McGarry as ‘Rising Star’ vocalist for the past 9 years. She has been interviewed on All Things Considered, and has performed on Jazz Set w/DeeDee Bridgwater, Piano Jazz w/Marion McPartland, and a host of nationally syndicated radio shows.
Singer Kate McGarry grew up in Hyannis, Mass., one of 10 children in a musical family that spent many nights singing together. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst she earned a degree in Afro-American Music and Jazz. Kate began developing her organic vocal style through early training in jazz performance with Dr Horace Boyer and iconic saxophonist Archie Shepp. Her experiences studying at a meditation ashram and exploring Celtic, Brazilian and Indian music also contributed to her widescreen vision as a vocalist and composer. After years honing her craft in Los Angeles, McGarry moved to New York where her independently produced (by Steven Santoro) debut album, Show Me, was picked up by Palmetto Records. Jazziz Magazine declared, “With this near-flawless album, she has arrived.”
In 2005 McGarry’s Mercy Streets album – which ranged from the Peter Gabriel title track to songs by Björk, Joni Mitchell and Irving Berlin – was called “one of the most important vocal albums of the year” by All About Jazz. Featuring originals alongside tunes by Sting and Bill Evans/Miles Davis, her album The Target was named one of the best jazz vocal albums of 2007 by Downbeat. The Downbeat reviewer called the recording “a milestone of maturity,” adding: “McGarry has the pure untrammeled voice of an ingénue who finds wonder in the simplest of things.” Her 2008 album, If Less Is More, Nothing Is Everything, was nominated for a Grammy Award, with The Wall Street Journal calling it “an exceptionally appealing blend of folk and jazz” for its mix of originals, standards, Brazilian tunes and songs by the likes of Bob Dylan. National Public Radio said: “Kate McGarry is called a jazz vocalist, but she’s hard to pin down. She draws on the music of her youth to inspire her – from the Irish tunes of her family’s roots to musical theater to pop songs.”
In 2008 Kate and her husband Keith Ganz made a foray into children’s music writing and recording 63 original children’s songs for the Heinle Picture Dictionary for Children, a bestselling international ESL educational product. Kate was then asked to sing the theme song for the hit children’s show, The WonderPets in a special jazz episode that featured the great Eartha Kitt and Jon Hendricks as The Cool Kat and the Hip Hippo.
Kate is a member of the vocal collective MOSS which features Theo Bleckmann, Peter Eldridge, Lauren Kinhan and Luciana Souza. The group’s debut CD, MOSS on Sunnyside Records garnered a rare 4.5 Stars from Down Beat Magazine.
McGarry has performed on some of the world’s most beloved stages, from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Birdland to the Newport Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Fest and Jazz Baltica and has performed, recorded or toured with such jazz luminaries as Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Archie Shepp, Fred Hersch, Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck and Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown. Kate represented the U.S. State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center for 3 years in the American Music Abroad program, touring thru Romania, Albania, Brazil, Chile, China and Mongolia.
McGarry’s 2012 CD for Palmetto Records Girl Talk was a tribute to her favorite visionary jazz women vocalists. It garnered 4 stars in Downbeat Magazine and showed up on over 20 Best of 2012 jazz critic’s lists. Her 2013 collaboration with John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Songs I Like A Lot, was lauded as a milestone in contemporary vocal jazz, receiving a Grammy™nomination for Best Arrangement For A Vocalist. Collaborations with Ryan Truesdell, Jeremy Fox have resulted in great learning opportunities as well as additional Grammy nominations, awards and accolades.
Kate currently lives in Durham North Carolina with husband/guitarist Keith Ganz. The couple celebrated 10 years of musical and life partnership with their first live duo recording, Genevieve and Ferdinand, out on Sunnyside Records in 2014. The tunes, as is typical of their live sets, move freely between jazz, folk, Brazilian and singer songwriter genres and was lauded by critics and public alike.
Kate’s vision for the future includes recording, touring, composing and collaborating as well as teaching and continuing to pass on the many gifts that the jazz music tradition has given to her. As The Nashville Scene noted, “McGarry embraces jazz’s freedom and points the genre toward a future that’s as fresh and thrilling as it’s past.”
Fred Hersch & Friends is an outgrowth of my longstanding Duo Invitation Series at Jazz Standard in NYC, now in its 10th year. The concept is simple: an evening of duos with artists I admire – playing repertoire we know as well as special and original material. Kate McGarry and I have collaborated for more than ten years on a multitude of projects and she is rightfully taking her place as one of the premier jazz vocalists of our time; she brings a deep emotional connection to everything she sings. Chris Potter has been my guest on my Invitation Series and he is a complete pleasure to play with; he is without doubt one of the great saxophonists on the planet. Everyone should expect a fun evening of musical dialogue with musicians who share the joy of spontaneity at the highest level.