Leaves of Grass
Featuring Kurt Elling & Kate McGarry
Saturday, April 27, 2019 | 8:00 pm
Acclaimed pianist Fred Hersch was touring France in the mid-1990s when he experienced an undeniable urge: he needed to read Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s visionary expression of open-hearted love for all beings. Hersch rushed to a Parisian bookstore, devoured the collection, and began creating his own Leaves of Grass — an exquisite twenty-song cycle that sets Whitman’s beloved poems to a score of gliding horns, sophisticated rhythms, and elegant piano — premiering it at Carnegie Hall in 2005. While Leaves of Grass was already highly musical, Hersch skillfully amplified its cadences, sonorities, and lyrical beauty.
Since composing Leaves of Grass, Hersch has released a string of GRAMMY-nominated albums, and he was the first pianist to perform a weeklong solo residency at the Village Vanguard. He occasionally revisited his song cycle, but with recent events calling into question everything Whitman held most dear, Hersch knew it was time to take Leaves of Grass on tour. At a time when Whitman’s words sound once again like a rallying cry for freedom, Hersch — one of jazz’s few openly gay stars — has reconvened the original Leaves of Grass lineup from the 2005 recording, including the great jazz singers Kurt Elling and Durham’s own Kate McGarry.
LEAVES OF GRASS
Fred Hersch, Piano
Kurt Elling, Vocals
Kate McGarry, Vocals
Ralph Alessi, Trumpet
Bruce Williamson & Tony Malaby, Saxophones
Mike Christianson, Trombone
Erik Friedlander, Cello
Drew Gress, Bass
John Hollenbeck, Drums
“His labyrinthine transfiguration of Walt Whitman’s epic emerged as both radical and respectful, brave and vulnerable, much like ‘Leaves of Grass’ itself.”