GRAMMY Nominee FRED HERSCH Releases Musical Version of Walt Whitman’s, Leaves of Grass, on FEB 22, 2005
[*** The 150th Year of Its Original Publication ]
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10-Piece Ensemble @ HERBST THEATRE MARCH 6 — Includes Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry
Performing Words of Walt Whitman to Music by Hersch
Over his 30-year career, pianist and composer Fred Hersch has established himself as a master in solo, duo, trio and quintet settings. For his third release on Palmetto Records, he departs radically from these forms with his biggest and most personal musical compositional statement to date, Leaves of Grass (February 22, 2005).
In Leaves of Grass, Hersch leads a 10-piece ensemble in a full-evening work that features vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry singing the words of Walt Whitman set to compositions by Hersch. The instrumental players are: Ralph Alessi, trumpet/flugelhorn; Mike Christianson, trombone; Bruce Williamson, clarinet/alto sax/bass clarinet; Tony Malaby, tenor sax; Erik Friedlander, cello; Drew Gress, bass; John Hollenbeck, drums/percussion; and Hersch on piano.
For the first time, Hersch found himself stepping away from the piano and letting words guide him in his composing. He explains:
The complete Leaves of Grass is more than 600 pages. To distill and create a libretto from this life’s work of poems was a lengthy and personal process. In setting out to compose the music, I had no idea where these words would take me. But I followed my instincts and, away from the piano, I simply started to sing the poems. Over time, musical themes emerged – and I began to find internal rhythms as I lived with the subtleties of the words. Like Whitman, I tried not to limit myself, and when the words wanted to take me somewhere – stylistically, melodically, rhythmically and harmonically – I did my best to just get out of the way.
Hersch thrives on challenging himself and, with Leaves of Grass, has surpassed his own reputation for artistic brilliance. That reputation won him the prestigious Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2003, which he used to support the development of this defining and compelling project. As Hersch approaches his 50th year, we are left to ponder what other creative leaps he will make in the second half of his professional life.
Tour Dates for Leaves of Grass Ensemble
March 6: Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
March 12: Kimmel Center, Philadelphia
March 10: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
March 13: Troy Savings Bank, Troy, NY
March 11: Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, NYC.
March 31: Lied Center, Lincoln, NE
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