Man on a Mission

Just as Hersch puts the best spin on the Evans comparisons, he makes the most of his high-profile status in the gay community. An energetic fundraiser for AIDS research, he appeared on the AIDS Quilt Songbook long-player; wrote the score for the PBS series Positive: Life With HIV; and produced and contributed musically to 1994's Last Night When We Were Young: The Ballad Album, a beautiful offering that earned money for New York's Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. Although this last effort had no major-label backing (it was marketed by Broadway Cares, the agency that popularized the wearing of red ribbons to show solidarity with people with AIDS), the CD was a tremendous success.

More AIDS-related benefits may be in Hersch's future, but he next plans to record a disc of Monk compositions followed by a collaboration with guitarist and labelmate Bill Frisell. "I feel pretty good," he adds. "Every day is different, and there's a lot to look forward to. I feel hopeful, medically speaking and in other ways, too. Sure, there's always stuff to whine about. But dealing with HIV puts a lot of things in perspective. I'm just a lot more realistic about things, and also much more appreciative about many things than I probably would have been otherwise. So from that perspective, I'd have to say things are great."

Fred Hersch. 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, January 29, Cafe Communique, 99 West Ninth Avenue, $12, 534-1199.

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