The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) today announced that pianist, composer, bandleader, and theatrical conceptualist Fred Hersch has been named a 2016 Doris Duke Artist. Appointed in recognition of their creative vitality and ongoing contributions to the fields of dance, jazz and theater, the twenty-one awardees will each receive $275,000 in flexible, multi-year funding as well as financial and legal counseling, professional development activities and peer-to-peer learning opportunities provided by Creative Capital, DDCF’s primary partner in the awards. With the 2016 class, DDCF will have awarded approximately $27.7 million to 101 noteworthy artists through the Doris Duke Artist Awards.
"I'm just blown away. I know people who have won this award, and I have so much respect for them; it feels so special to be in their company," said Fred Hersch, a recipient of this year's award in the jazz category. "Given the health struggles that I've experienced over the years, it's remarkable that I'm alive: I never expected to be 40, and now I'm 60. I feel like I'm still getting better at what I do, and that keeps me going. At heart, the thing I love to do is play–that's never, ever going to change–but I know that this award is going to open some doors, personally and professionally, in ways I can't even begin to predict."
Hersch, who turned 60 in October 2015, continues to create music that inspires, stimulates and illuminates. His 2016 schedule includes the 10th Anniversary of The Fred Hersch Duo Invitation Series at NYC’s Jazz Standard May 10–15 with guests Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Cécile McLorin Salvant, vocals; Julian Lage, guitar; Anat Cohen, clarinet; Kate McGarry, vocals; and Yosvany Terry; saxophones and shekere.
Hersch’s new recording, Sunday Night at the Vanguard will be released by Palmetto Records on August 12, 2016. It’s the most profound and enthralling trio statement yet by an improviser whose bands have for three decades embodied the enduring relevance of the piano-bass-and-drums format. Featuring the exquisitely interactive bassist John Hébert and extraordinarily sensitive drummer Eric McPherson, the ensemble has recorded a series of critically hailed albums over the past seven years, including 2012’s Fred Hersch Trio - Alive at the Vanguard, a double album that earned France’s top jazz award, the Grand Prix du Disque, and 2014’s lavishly praised Floating, a double Grammy®-nominee (both on Palmetto). With Sunday, Hersch’s trio gracefully leapfrogs past its already daunting accomplishments.
His essential contributions in jazz and beyond have not gone unnoticed in the academic world. Grinnell College in Iowa is bestowing an Honorary Doctor of Human Arts on May 22. His previous Honorary Doctorate–of Musical Arts–was awarded last year by Northern Kentucky University.
A feature length film, The Ballad of Fred Hersch, recently premiered to rapturous reviews at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and Hersch is busy at work on a memoir (working title: Good Things Happen Slowly) for Crown/Random House due in stores Spring 2017.
This will be the final group of Doris Duke Artists to receive these awards under the umbrella of the foundation’s Doris Duke Performing Artists Initiative, a larger $50 million allocation by DDCF above its existing funding to the performing arts. However, having witnessed the tremendous value of the program over the past five years, DDCF is pleased to announce plans to extend the life of the Doris Duke Artist Awards by incorporating the program into its annual grant-making budget at a more sustainable scale for the long term. In the future, the foundation will continue to yearly give Doris Duke Artist Awards to three artists. These awards will be managed internally by DDCF staff. DDCF expresses deep gratitude to Creative Capital for their successful administration of the first five classes of Doris Duke Artists and for their part in making the awards program a success.
“The Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards has been a truly visionary program, setting a standard for comprehensive artist support,” said Ruby Lerner, founding president and executive director at Creative Capital. “We at Creative Capital have been so proud to be a part of the powerful partnership that has supported the 101 artists who have received awards to date.”
About the Doris Duke Artist Awards
Each recipient of a Doris Duke Artist Award receives $275,000—including an unrestricted, multi-year cash grant of $225,000, plus as much as $25,000 more in targeted support for audience development and as much as $25,000 more for personal reserves or creative exploration during what are usually retirement years for most Americans. Artists will be able to access their awards over a period of three years under a schedule set by each recipient. Creative Capital, DDCF’s primary partner in the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, will also offer the awardees the opportunity to participate in professional development activities, regional gatherings, and financial and legal counseling—all designed to help them personalize and maximize the use of their grants.
To qualify for consideration by the review panels, all the Doris Duke Artists must have won grants, prizes or awards on a national level for at least three different projects over the past 10 years, with at least one project having received support from a DDCF-funded program. The panel chose the artists based on demonstrated evidence of exceptional creativity, ongoing self-challenge and the continuing potential to make significant contributions to the fields of contemporary dance, jazz and theater in the future.
About Fred Hersch
Praised in a New York Times Sunday Magazine feature as "singular among the trailblazers of their art, a largely unsung innovator of this borderless, individualistic jazz—a jazz for the 21st century," pianist Fred Hersch balances his internationally recognized instrumental and composing skills with significant achievements as a bandleader, collaborator and theatrical conceptualist.
Hersch – an 8-time Grammy® nominee who as leader or co-leader has over three dozen albums to his name – has featured himself as either a solo performer or at the helm of varied small ensembles, which in addition to his celebrated trio, include a quintet and his unconventional Pocket Orchestra.
He has also collaborated with an astonishing range of instrumentalists and vocalists throughout worlds of jazz (Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Art Farmer, Stan Getz and 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.
In 2006 Hersch 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 2011 release, Alone at the Vanguard received Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo. 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. His most recent CD, Fred Hersch: SOLO, earned critical acclaim from DownBeat for “a program so rich you will want to savor it in increments, enjoying its bittersweetness and poignancy.”
In 2003 Hersch created Leaves of Grass (Palmetto Records), a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman's poetry for 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. His acclaimed 2010 theatrical project, My Coma Dreams (based on imaginings Hersch had during a two-month coma), is a full-evening work for an actor/singer, 11 instrumentalists and animation/multimedia; it is available on DVD on Palmetto Records. A disc of his through-composed works, Fred Hersch: Concert Music 2001-2006, has been released by Naxos Records. He was the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Music Composition among his many awards and honors.
For two decades Hersch has been a passionate spokesman and fund-raiser for AIDS services and education agencies. He has produced and performed on benefit recordings and in numerous concerts for charities, including Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. He has also been a keynote speaker and performer at international medical conferences in the U.S. and Europe. He is currently a member of the Jazz Studies faculty of Rutgers University. And 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."