By Thomas Matich
For a city that’s in need of some sort of hospice, Detroit could learn an inspirational lesson or two from Fred Hersch – a jazz pianist and composer who was given a death sentence over 20 years ago. Diagnosed with HIV in 1986, in an era when everyone from Rock Hudson to mustached gay porn stars were dropping like flies from the “gay cancer,” Hersch has persevered. He’s gone on to have a remarkably prolific career with dozens of albums under his belt along with Grammy nominations and prestigious musical fellowships. But it hasn’t been easy.
In a scene from the documentary “Let Yourself Go – The Lives of Fred Hersch,” Hersch is taking his medication, discussing his daily doses of 30 pills that amount to $45,000 a year. The pills he swallows to keep fighting along, and the pills he takes to counteract the side effects of other pills. Hersch appears frail, with the gaunt appearance of lipodystrophy painted on his face and his voice slightly more weathered and elderly than his 53 years of age.
Yet his music, be it his dazzling cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Let’s Cool One” to one of his own vibrant and ornate compositions, is marvelously energetic, punchy, beautiful and youthfully an