Walt Whitman via Fred Hersch

By JON GARELICK  |  April 19, 2012

For myself, I hear a kind of classical post-War Americana in Hersch’s piece, maybe as much Copland and Bernstein as Ellington. But what impresses throughout is the balance of text and music – every word is clear as a bell, certainly owing to the skill on the recording of singers Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry, but also to Hersch’s skillful text-setting. “This piece is really about the words. It’s not about jazz solos, even though it’s played by jazz musicians.” At NEC the piece will be played straight through without intermission, and Hersch has asked that applause be held until the end of the piece. Latecomers will be seated only in the balcony. The singers will be the distinguished Boston vocalist and NEC teacher Dominique Eade and the NEC student baritone Tommy Boynton.

Whitman had special resonance for Hersch as a gay man. In the poet, he found a message about “compassion and how to be honest about who we are” as well as a way to “selfishly express my own philosophy.”

FRED HERSCH “LEAVES OF GRASS” | Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St, Boston | April 26 | 8 pm | Free | 6176.585.1260

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