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The Maiden Voyage of Fred Hersch

In his new autobiography, the acclaimed pianist recounts a life of musical, emotional and sexual discovery

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Photo of Fred Hersch
Fred Hersch (photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey)

If you have a passing knowledge of how the publishing industry works, you are likely to cock a cynical eyebrow when pondering if a memoir such as Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life in and Out of Jazz, by the notable pianist-composer Fred Hersch, would have ever gained release with a major if it didn’t heavily involve splashy subjects like AIDS and sex addiction. Which is a shame and an aspersion on an industry that could do well with more books of this one’s insight and candor.

Essentially, this life-as-gay-man-in-jazz document is reducible to two major strands: what it was like to grapple with sexuality and illness for large chunks of that life, and how Hersch came to master a post-Bill Evans form of pianism that channeled aspects of personal hardship into a clear, forceful musical voice.

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