My Coma Dreams, the extraordinary jazz theater piece based on the personal experience of Grammy-nominated pianist/composer Fred Hersch, who survived a two-month medically induced coma,will be available for free streaming beginning thisFriday, July 17 via YouTube. This video is best experienced with headphones or on stereo speakers.
Iconic pianist and composer Fred Hersch to offer free streaming of acclaimed jazz theater piece My Coma Dreams beginning Friday, July 17, 2020
Inspired by Hersch’s near-death experience, the work was created,
written and directed by Herschel Garfein and features actor/singer Michael Winther
“Serious, profoundly moving and sometimes disturbing, a work of dream art as elegant as Stravinsky’s ‘Petit Concert’ and as memorable as ‘Yesterday.’” — David Hajdu, The New Republic
“…deeply funny moments…Mr. Hersch is a pianist and composer of rare and wide-ranging gifts…Ultimately, Mr. Hersch’s music best conveys the stuff of his dreams.” – Larry Blumenfeld, Wall Street Journal
“…stretches of susurrating minimalism; collective free improvisation delivered at microscopic volume; sophisticated musical-theater songs; staccato polytonality; and swinging, Thelonious Monk-inspired jazz.” – Ben Ratliff, New York Times
My Coma Dreams, the extraordinary jazz theater piece based on the personal experience of Grammy-nominated pianist/composer Fred Hersch, who survived a two-month medically induced coma, will be available for free streaming beginning Friday, July 17 via YouTube. This video is best experienced with headphones or on stereo speakers.
The piece brings together original music by Hersch, “singular among trailblazers of his art” (Vanity Fair), and a script by Grammy-winning writer/director Herschel Garfein, whose “themes are deeply American, and rooted in the mores of Generations X and Y” (Time Out NY). The performance features singer/actor Michael Winther, “a theater singer of unusual refinement” with “a voice that traverses genres” (NY Times)accompanied by an 11-piece ensemble “swinging like mad.” (All About Jazz). The multimedia presentation also features animation by Sarah Wickliffe and computer imagery generated by Eamonn Farrell. The 11-piece instrumental ensemble led by Hersch includes such jazz heavyweights as drummer John Hollenbeck, bassist John Hébert, trumpeter Ralph Alessi and reed player Adam Kolker along with a string quartet featuring violinist/violist Joyce Hammann and cellist Dave Eggar. The performance was filmed with multiple cameras by videographer Ross Karre with sound design and recording by Jody Elff.
My Coma Dreams is based on eight dreams and nightmares experienced by Hersch while in a coma during the summer of 2008. Garfein shaped the dream stories into a continuous narrative that illuminates an extraordinary journey to the dividing line between life and death. Winther narrates, sings, and plays the dual roles of Fred and his partner, Scott. My Coma Dreams was originally released on DVD by Palmetto Records on November 25, 2014.
Hersch’s coma experiences were also chronicled in his acclaimed 2017 memoir, “Good Things Happen Slowly,” which was featured in the Sunday New York Times and on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” named one of 2017’s Five Best Memoirs by the Washington Post and The New York Times, and acclaimed as 2018’s Book on Jazz of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Haunting and lyrical, at times humorous and frightening, My Coma Dreams pushes the boundary of music and theater into a realm that is deeply personal and inescapably universal. The show has earned wide critical acclaim. Jesse Hamlin of the San Francisco Chronicle calls it “a potent jazz theater piece.” Dr. Judth Schlesinger in All About Jazz calls it “a searing and powerful statement about our shared humanity and the redemptive power of music and love…In a just world this is the stuff that Pulitzers are made of.” Alan Young of Lucid Culture says, “…a genuinely heartwarming portrait of joie de vivre triumphing over enormous odds…literally breathtaking…powerful and compelling.”
A select member of jazz’s piano pantheon, Fred Hersch is a pervasively influential creative force who has shaped the music’s course over more than three decades as an improviser, composer, educator, bandleader, collaborator and recording artist. He has been proclaimed “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade” by Vanity Fair, “an elegant force of musical invention” by The L.A. Times, and “a living legend” by The New Yorker.
A fifteen-time Grammy nominee, Hersch has regularly garnered jazz’s most prestigious awards and has long set the standard for expressive interpretation and inventive creativity, whether through his exquisite solo performances, as the leader of one of jazz’s era-defining trios, or in eloquent dialogue with his deeply attuned duo partners. His acclaimed, award-winning 2017 memoir, “Good Things Happen Slowly” (Crown Archetype Books/Random House), compellingly reveals the story of his life in music along with a frank recounting of his struggles and triumphs as the first openly gay, HIV-positive jazz musician.
Herschel Garfein is a Grammy® Award-winning writer, composer and stage director. He is the composer and librettist of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, a new opera based on the play by Tom Stoppard. His song-cycle The Divine Image will soon be released in a premiere recording by mezzo Jennifer Rivera on GPR Records. Garfein was awarded the 2012 Grammy® Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his “wildly operatic libretto” (BBC Music Magazine) for Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry in a performance by Florentine Opera, Milwaukee (NAXOS). Composition credits: Mythologies (Mark Morris), Sueños (Mabou Mines), American Steel (Alabama Symphony), Sir Peter Hall’s Troilus and Cressida(incidental music, TFNA). TimeOut NY wrote that: “Garfein has all the makings of a post-millennial Carlisle Floyd…. [His] themes are deeply American and rooted in the social mores of Gens X and Y.”