The jazz performance I first attended was by a renowned jazz performer Fred Hersch. The performance took place on Thursday, October 11, 2018. The performance took place at the University of Dayton in its famous hall, Sears Recital Hall. The performance started at 7:30 PM and ended at around 9:30 PM. Since this was my very first appearance at such an event, it took me time to grow into it but with time I became just as enthralled as the other jazz lovers in the hall.

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From my research, I noted that this performance was part of a series known as the Artslive Performance Series that this university has been organizing since 1961 as a way of providing outstanding cultural experiences for campus and community audiences. From what I saw that night, I now fully understand why jazz music is such a vital part of the US music culture. Normally, Fred Hersch performs in a trio but that he was all alone. The admission rates $18 for the general admission, $15 for seniors and University of Daytona alumni, $10 for the university’s employees, and free for the current students.

Observations about the Music
Being a pianist, I did not expect a lot when it came to his style of music. When he started his composition on the piano, I did not know what to expect. From the onset, one could I tell that he was a gifted soloist because of his sophisticated and unself-conscious approach to the playing standards. I had never heard his music before but I could that the songs he was singing were his own original compositions. I could explain his music as exquisite but only within certain bounds to show how complicated an artist he is. His musical values were reminded me of the classical music of the French impressionists.

His keyboard voicings had a certain sophistication and it was just as fluid given I was made to understand that it is always better when accompanied by his bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson. His music was engaging and this was made possible by his glistening right-hand tone as well as unexpected chord changes. The sound of the piano could be heard clearly even when playing at the softest dynamic level.

Observations about the Performance
Apart from the observations on his music, it was also noted that his technicality mastery and musicality is something to behold. From his use of the instruments, it was quite obvious that he pays much attention to sound as well as the emotional rhythm of his play. I could describe his mastery as both mechanical and technical. Though a jazz musician, I was certainly sure that his style of playing this instrument had certain classical elements in it. I could confidently say that the same elements also affect his musical style.

One of the songs that he performed during the night was Leaves of Grass. I had never heard the song before but I knew that no one had ever done anything like that before. I could tell that this music was not an opera or oratorio, musical or song cycle. From my personal perspective, I could tell that given the poetic nature of the song, the composition might have been influenced by a series of poems that the artist loved because I could feel how emotional he was. It appears that his music composition is mostly influenced by improvisations that I can definitely say that has worked well for him so far as well as during the interview.

Observations about the Performer
From my observations that night, I also concluded that Fred Hersch is a massively talented musician. If I were to describe him in my own words, I would refer to him as a pristine pianist with the soul of a poet. While there is no question about him being one of the great jazz artists I have ever heard, it would not be wrong to refer to him as a riveting story-teller. The story-telling became apparent in his songs that I came to learn almost have meanings. To him, jazz is not just about accompanying rhythms with lyrics, but instead telling a story as it is.

His outward looks do not inspire and this is one of the things that I believe might have worked for him and this was also apparent during the performance that night. When I first saw him, I did not believe his performance was going to inspire the crowd that from the look of things expected much. However, I noted that he was a man full of self-realization in the manner in which he spoke and even moved his hands as he sat on his famous piano.

While the performance was exhilarating and a level above what I expected, it would not be unfair to state that I was far more impressed by the performer than the performance. I believe that his style of playing jazz is what other artists should look to attain. He has both the spontaneity as well as the sensitivity needed to play jazz at the highest level. His soft sound is one of the reasons why I would like to attend his further performances in the future. I loved the raw honesty and immediacy in his music. As much as the performance was great, it is also important to acknowledge the efforts of the crowd who kept the atmosphere positive throughout the night.

  • ArtsLIVE: Fred Hersch, Jazz Pianist. 11 October 2018. 17 October 2018 .
  • Fred Hersch. 12 October 2018. 17 October 2018 .
  • Hersch, Fred. Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz. New York: Crown/Archetype, 2017.