Fred Hersch inaugural online daily live mini-concert
(22 March 2020. Online/Live Review by Dan Bergsagel)
Needless to say that disruption is currently the norm. And out of all the unexpected turns of events this last two week in NY, the inevitable cancellation of the Fred Hersch/Dominique Eade duo at The Jazz Standard on Friday 20th was perhaps the least surprising. The concert was just part of the New England Conservatory’s Jazz50 series, celebrating half a century since Gunther Schuller started the Jazz Studies course at NEC with concerts in Boston and New York.
When the Jazz Standard announced it was voluntarily closing it followed the closure of larger capacity venues in New York (greater than 500), and simply preempted the forced closure of all bars in NYC this last week. Live culture has been temporarily postponed.
Or has it? Fred Hersch has decided that musicians can work from home, too. And while he admits he isn’t one for too much practice, he’ll take this as an opportunity to livestream a short set every day at 13h00 EST everyday from his SoHo loft while this thing goes on (whether it be weeks or months).
The first pieces are tinged with sadness, whether heartfelt Hersch composition Valentine dedicated to his friend Nathan Allman, or more sparky, celebratory piece from Ellington’s homage to Billy Strayhorn, …And His Mother Called Him Bill. The third piece instead looks outside – spring has sprung in New York and the city is (trying, at least) to self-isolate on a crisp sunny cloudless day – so we are treated to State Fair, from Rodgers and Hammerstein.
What Hersch is doing is a beautiful thing, and while it seems unusual now, perhaps this is the moment for digital concerts to take off. Musician’s like Bassist Mark Dresser may have just been ahead of the curve when they started playing Telematic Translocational concerts. And there are certainly some advantages – the 800 people watching online certainly beats the 150 capacity crowd at The Jazz Standard. There is increased crowd participation, and a level of audience intimacy that is not usually achievable (Hersch is taking requests for future concerts online)
It is also very much not the same as a live concert. Part of that is due to the vagaries of spotty internet connections and small laptop screens, and part is that self-isolation, by necessity, makes these concerts a solo affair. But it is clear that what one gains in convenience one loses in atmosphere, experience and audio experience of live music. This concert series is an exciting sign of resilience in a cultural community that will be particularly hard hit, and an excellent stop gap. But I cannot wait to be back in the city’s basements hearing and seeing it all in the moment again.
The daily concerts are streamed HERE
At 13h00 EST which is 17h00 London time for this week, switching to 18h00 London time on Sunday 29 (thanks to the US taking Daylight Saving Time a few weeks early).