Apr 30, 2021
2020 was not kind to most of us. It was even more unkind to Vincent Herring. Returning to New York from a gig in Las Vegas, he contracted COVID on the flight. Despite the relatively minor effects of the virus, there would be more. A few weeks later he began feeling pain in his joints. A blood test later and his doctor told him he had developed rheumatoid arthritis as a result of his COVID exposure.
Chronic joint pain can be a death knell for a musician – it has ended careers, especially for pianists – so Herring entered the studio to record a new album feeling strong but unsure of his future. He began taking a cocktail of medications and played through the pain as best he could. The result is an unexpectedly joyous album, Preaching to the Choir, on Smoke Sessions Records.
No one would have blamed Vincent if he was not looking on the bright side as he wrote tunes and recorded them with a few pop classics and standards. But that was not in his nature, and the music is full of optimism, and as he explains in our conversation, music you can tap your foot to. Whether burning it up with Wes Montgomery’s “Fried Pies,” the call and response brilliance of the title track, or wringing emotion from the ballad “Hello” (written by Lionel Richie), Herring is in top form. And his band - pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, and drummer Johnathan Blake – is nothing short of sensational.
Podcast 815 is the first of a two-part podcast interview with Vincent Herring. In Part One, we talk about his health struggle and how it influenced the music on Preaching to the Choir.
In Part Two, we’ll talk about his love of the music of Charlie Parker, and the tribute album he recorded live with Gary Bartz and Bobby Watson, Bird at 100. Vince also shares memories of his times with Nat Adderly, Art Blakey and Cedar Walton.