Monday, July 19, 2010
Just a year after his first album was released at age 29, self taught jazz composer and pianist Fred Hersch was diagnosed with HIV. Hersch was recently interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered.
"For at least the first number of albums I made on my own, I really had this kind of dramatic feeling like this is going to be my last statement and I just wanted to create enough of a body of work that if I died I might somehow be remembered. That was like the thrust."
In 2008, Hersch developed an AIDS related delirium. He developed pneumonia and septic shock. He required a feeding a tube. He states he was in a coma for 2 months. When he came out of his coma, he couldn't walk, talk or swallow. He suffered from vocal cord paralysis.
Now 54, Hersch has released more than 2 dozen albums. "...Now that I've been on the scene and achieved some degree of success and respect I don't feel the need to prove my self in any particular way. I can take more risks." He recently released the album Whirl, his first since his prolonged illness.
How did his illness effect his music? "I think in ways I may be better. I feel certainly more relaxed as a player. I think I'm digging deeper. There are a few little technical things that were easier before that now I have to compensate for, but the small technical things, nobody would notice but me."
Below is one of the songs from Whirl, "Still Here". It is not actually about Hersch himself. It was inspired by Wayne Shorter, jazz saxophonist and composer who is still playing and composing at age 76. (A couple more of his songs, "Snow is Falling" and "Skipping" can be heard on the NPR website, here.)
I find it amazing that Hersch not only recovered from such a serious illness, he went on to create terrific jazz. When I heard his NPR interview, it stuck in my head because of his interesting outlook on his illness. His health problems didn't hinder his music career. They seemed to spur it on.