Pianist Fred Hersch has been breaking barriers from an early age, from writing his first symphony at the age of 12, to playing the first-ever weeklong solo piano engagement at New York’s legendary Village Vanguard in 2006. His career, now in its fourth decade, includes collaborations with Art Farmer, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Toots Thielemans, and others. Hersch has also broken barriers as an openly gay jazz musician who has been outspoken about his HIV-positive status. In this 2000 interview, he discusses the importance, and difficulty, of expressing your own individual experience through the music, the evolution of his solo piano expression, and how publicly living with HIV has affected his life and music. As Hersch says, "sometimes I hear jazz and it sounds like hip cats playing things for other hip cats to dig, instead of taking more of a chance, or relating it to the world, or relating it to their own personal experience, or who they are, or how they feel at that moment… I think that's when we start losing sight of what it is."
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