Listening with Fred

Private  Stash: A Musician's Eye  is a look at the varied influences that have helped shape jazz musician Fred Hersch's life and work.  Exhibition on view Tuesday-Saturday, 11-6, September 8 - October 29, 2011;  concert schedule here.           

Included in the exhibit are two iPods.  Here is the fascinating playlist for the "influences" iPod; go to the exhibit to discover what Fred chose for his "personal favorites" of his own recordings.  

1) God Put A Rainbow In The Sky (Mahalia Jackson): This album was in my parents' collection and is some of the first non-classical and non-pop music that really got to me.

2) Bach: Partita #2: Sinfonia (Glenn Gould): I wore out the boxed set of Gould playing the Partitas, Inventions and Sinfonias I got when I was six. His playing (and my love of string quartets) instilled a love of improvising in multiple voices. In addition, he was a brilliant philosopher of music and still is a total inspiration.

3) Stranger in Paradise (Jimmy McGary): He was the local tenor sax God in my hometown Cincinnati and took me under his wing. He had a great beat and a world-class sound and gave me some tough love when I was starting out. (I am on piano on this track).

4) The Mooche (Duke Ellington): From "Hi-Fi Ellington Uptown". A gift from a family friend, I wore this one out in my teenage years. The dueling clarinet section is one of the great moments in jazz.

5) Ravel: String Quartet: 1st Movement: This performance, by Quartetto Italiano is my favorite. He seems to create an entire orchestra with four instruments and the harmony is awesome.

6) My Old Man (Joni Mitchell): "Blue", a masterpiece, turned me upside-down when it came out in 1971. Her lyrics, way with harmony, her chord progressions and the uniqueness of her voice are unsurpassed. She is one of the great setters of text of all time. I had a hard time trying to figure out these chords as a high-schooler!

7) Down To You (Joni Mitchell): From 1974. This song says so much and the production is amazing.

8) What's Going On? (Marvin Gaye): I have always been a Motown fan and this song captured an era of political involvement and questioning of authority during my freshman year at Grinnell College in 1973. Plus his singing and the groove are wonderful...

9) Brahms: Trio #1, Op. 8: 1st Movement: At Grinnell, I played chamber music for the first time and that - in an odd way - led me to jazz. I found out how much fun it was to make music with other people - instead of practicing alone. Brahms has always been one of my very favorite composers and this piece is perfection.

10) Stravinsky: "Dumbarton Oaks" Concert, 1st Movement: I have always loved Stravinsky's "new classic" period. His use of tonality, motor rhythm and fantastic orchestration give this piece amazing life-energy.

11) If I Were A Bell (Miles Davis): This is the record ("Live at the Blackhawk") that made me want to play jazz as my life's work. Wynton Kelly's comping under Miles' and Hank Mobley's solos, his energy and time feel and the live-ness of the recording are still great to listen to today - so direct and swinging.

12) 1 X Love (Charles Mingus): This is the record that made me want to be a jazz composer. It sounds like Ellington on acid.

13) Starbright (Keith Jarrett): "Facing You", Keith's first solo album, was a revelation. It is still one of his best recordings - among many.

14) How About You? (Bill Evans): Bill overdubbed himself twice on "Conversations with Myself" - I have tried this and it is wickedly hard to do. This is essential Bill and his sense of time and phrasing are perfect.

15) Old Devil Moon (Ahmad Jamal): This trio (with Israel Crosby and Vernel Fournier) is one of the two greatest of all time (the other being Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian). Ahmad had the most beautiful sound and touch of any jazz pianist - and his sense of drama and arrangement is unsurpassed.

16) Hi-Fly (Jaki Byard): I went to New England Conservatory in 1975 to study with Jaki. An encyclopedia of jazz piano, he got me into the older stride pianists. He had a wonderfully personal style and played with real exuberance.

17) As Long As I Live (Earl "Fatha" Hines"): He was the first great jazz pianist, had perfect time and was a fearless improviser, especially in a solo context. Recorded at The New School when he was in his 70's, every tune he played took you on a wild ride.

18) Great Day (Sarah Vaughn): This live CD began my interest in great jazz singers. It is a thrilling performance.

19) Serpentine (Earth, Wind and Fire): My favorite soul/R&B band had the most killing grooves - and many of their songs carried social messages as well. Played by real musicians, not machines.

20) Goodbye to Childhood (Herbie Hancock): Herbie is my favorite pianist from the 60's. This intriguing composition shows off his improvising discipline - and looseness.

21) Tomorrow is The Question! (Ornette Coleman): From one of his early Contemporary albums, the track shows the bridge he built between playing and not playing on chord changes. His statements of the melody with Don Cherry are remarkable. Along with Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, he represents the third great revolution in jazz.

22) Webern: Five Movements for String Quartet (1st Movt): Like Ornette or Bird, Webern could say so much in so little time. His musical gestures, high content level and use of space are still models of beauty and economy.

23) Opening: From Music for Large Ensemble by Kenny Wheeler. This is one of the most beautiful pieces ever written for jazz orchestra; by the British trumpeter and composer. I have had the great fortune of playing with him over the years.

24) Belonging (Keith Jarrett): Simple, passionate and beautiful.

25) Softly As In A Morning Sunrise (Sonny Rollins): From "Live at the Village Vanguard" (1957) with Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones. Sonny is my favorite sax player and this album is a working definition of what jazz is all about - sound, rhythm, content and humor. He is a bad-ass.

26) Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit (Ondine): This recording by Martha Argerich, one of my favorite pianists, uses the piano to maximum effect. The performance is dazzling and her rhythm is unmatched.

27) Nancarrow: Study for Player Piano #1: He became frustrated that live musicians couldn't play the complex rhythms he imagined, so he composed for the player piano. His off-kilter - yet tonal - style really appeals to me. I wish I could play like this!

28) Fall (Miles Davis): From his classic 60's quartet, composition by Wayne Shorter. The use of the melody as a repeated thread throughout the track was a revelation. The tune is an example of Wayne's enigmatic approach to jazz composition.

29) And Now The Queen (Paul Bley): He has influenced many pianists by his phrasing and touch (Keith Jarrett in particular) - he put the language of Ornette Coleman on the piano. Tune by Carla Bley.

30) No More (Ran Blake): Another iconic pianist, Ran taught at New England Conservatory when I was there in the mid-70's. His use of tone color and pedaling is unique and made me think about the piano in a different way. This highly chromatic ballad is associated with Billie Holiday.

31) Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel): I have always enjoyed intelligent pop and rock music. The production on this track is state-of-the-art.

32) Little Prayer (Dave Catney & Sandra Dudley): Dave was a friend and colleague, lived in Dallas and died of AIDS in 1993 at the age of 32. This gorgeous tune of his appeared on "Last Night When We Were Young", the first benefit CD I produced for Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. He truly died too young.

33) He's Younger Than You Are (Sonny Rollins): From his score to the movie "Alfie", a heartbreaking ballad performance. Roger Kellaway is on piano, playing one of his best solos ever.

34) Upper Manhattan Medical Group (Tommy Flanagan): Tommy introduced me to Billy Strayhorn's music at Bradley's - the ultimate piano hangout - in the late 1970's when I was new to the New York scene. He was a high-content improviser with a pearly touch who took lots of risks within the post-bop genre - he also had great taste in repertoire.

35) Blues in Orbit (Duke Ellington): Though just two and a half minutes long and six choruses, this is Duke at his best.

36) Miyako (Wayne Shorter): A composition that I have performed for many years, Wayne has a gift for writing tunes in ¾ that are not "waltzes". His sound and note choices are completely personal.

37) Biaio Malandro (Egberto Gismonti): A biaio is a Brazilian rhythm and he plays the crap out of it on this solo track. He is one of the great musicians of the world - as pianist, guitarist and composer - and has profoundly influenced me in numerous ways.

38) Don't Blame Me (Thelonious Monk): Another HUGE influence. When Monk plays a standard, you always hear the words. This fact has been a big part of my approach to standards since the words are so integral to the composition.

39) Boo Boo's Birthday (Thelonious Monk): A quirky tune written for his daughter Barbara. I have always felt close to Monk's music and have played it my entire career. Always stimulating, compositionally well-crafted and full of life.

40) Some Other Time (Betty Carter): By Cahn & Styne (not the more famous one by Bernstein, Comden & Green), her performance is full of wisdom and regret. Betty at her best.

41) Wamba (Salif Keita): From Mali, this has an infectious triple rhythm - and his voice is one of the wonders of nature. Music from other cultures (Brazil in particular) has always been a part of my music.


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