Hersch's ensemble features vocalists Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, trombonist Mike Christianson, clarinetist Bruce Williamson, tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer John Hollenbeck, as well as Hersch on piano.
Whitman first published Leaves of Grass—at his own expense—in 1855. He revised and expanded the collecion continuously over the remaining 45 years of his life. Revolutionary in its form and in its unabashed celebration of the body, Leaves of Grass includes the poems "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "O Captain! My Captain!"
"In setting out to compose the music, I had no idea where these words would take me," Hersh said in a statement. "But I followed my instincts and, away from the piano, I simply started to sing the poems. Over time, musical themes emerged—and I began to find internal rhythms as I lived with the subtleties of the words."
The recipient of a MacArthur "genius grant" in 2003, Hersh has recorded more than 20 albums with his trio and as a solo pianist. He has collaborated with many classical artists and groups, including violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, sopranos Ren_e Fleming and Dawn Upshaw, and the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Leaves of Grass premiered in Washington, D.C., in 2003; a CD was issued last month. Complete tour dates are below.
March 6: Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
March 10: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
March 11: Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York
March 12: Kimmel Center, Philadelphia
March 13: Troy Savings Bank, Troy, NY
March 31: Lied Center, Lincoln, NE