The global pandemic has presented nearly all of us with unique challenges and hardships in every phase of life, but there are many people whose chosen profession requires them to live from day to day without a safety net or health care resources. Musicians fall squarely in that camp, with fewer than 5% able to make more than the poverty level based on their music alone.
Two jazz musicians who have had greater success than most – Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch – have decided to give back: they are releasing a collection of five songs recorded as a duet at the Village Vanguard in 2018 as a pure charity event. Having seen both amazing performers live separately, I was excited to grab this to hear them together and felt great that my money would help musicians who are struggling to survive now.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect on the jazz community, leaving countless musicians to face an uncertain future. Visionary vocalist, bassist and songwriter Esperanza Spalding and iconic pianist/ composer Fred Hersch have committed to do their part to help fellow musicians in need with the limited release of Esperanza Spalding & Fred Hersch: Live at the Village Vanguard – Rough Mix EP, a five-song EP captured during the duo’s 2018 run at the iconic New York City nightclub. The EP is a live rough mix with no edits.
The EP will be offered exclusively for download through Bandcamp, with all proceeds benefitting the Jazz Foundation of America and the organization’s efforts to assist members of the jazz community impacted by this ongoing crisis. Released on May 29, the scintillating performance will be available only through the month of June for a minimum of $17, with additional donations encouraged on a pay-what-you-wish basis. Purchase the album here.
“All of my musician friends are in the same boat,” Hersch laments. “People who rely on gigs to make ends meet have seen entire tours cancelled. What opportunities may come – and when – remains a huge question mark.”
Besides raising much-needed funds for a vital cause, Live at the Village Vanguard provides a rare opportunity for listeners to enjoy this singular and thrilling collaboration. Spalding and Hersch have convened for only a handful of NYC performances since their first meeting during Hersch’s annual duo series at the Jazz Standard in 2013. In that limited time the pair has developed a wholly unique approach, not only in the annals of piano-voice duets but in their own already distinctive practices.
“This recording feels like you’ve got the best seat in the house for a very live experience,” Hersch says. “You can really feel the energy of the room, of the audience, and of our interplay, and I think it’ll make people feel really good to hear it.”
“I think there’s a lot of joy and beauty in this music that Fred and I made,” adds Spalding. “Beyond collecting money for musicians in need, sharing the beauty in our hearts can have a healing effect as well.”
Head to Bandcamp to buy this amazing collaboration and help musicians if you can during this unprecedented challenge.