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February 3, 2010

Jazz Pianist Fred Hersch Flourishes in Spite of AIDS-Related Dementia, Coma

The New York Times Magazine recently profiled acclaimed HIV-positive jazz pianist Fred Hersch, who was featured in the third issue of POZ back in 1994. Today, at the age of 54, Hersch remains a prolific songwriter and performer in spite of AIDS-related illnesses that nearly sidelined his career.

According to the feature, Hersch—who has been open about his HIV status since the early 1990s—developed AIDS-related dementia early in 2008 when HIV migrated to his brain. Later that year, he fell into a coma and remained unconscious for two months at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. He nearly lost motor function in his hands because of his prolonged unconsciousness and accompanying inactivity.

Thanks to months of rehabilitation therapy and medical support, Hersch has fully recovered. Last year, he released two albums, including a solo piano record, Fred Hersch Plays Jobim. A documentary about Hersch, Let Yourself Go: The Lives of Fred Hersch, was also released in 2009.

Last fall, Hersch began working on a long-form work based on the HIV-related obstacles he has faced. “I’ve been through a lot,” he said, “and I want to make something of it, musically.”

Search: Fred Hersch, dementia, jazz, St. Vincent's


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