The Jazzcat

Tag: Herbie Hancock

Dianne Reeves, Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride and Harvey Mason at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

by on Feb.13, 2014, under Events

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Painted like the perfect picture on stage, beautifully lit in hues of rich purples and periwinkle blues, an extraordinary quartet that is so very comfortable together. Our superstars of jazz, each having played with each other in many different configurations come together and grace us with their synergy of solitude; Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride, Harvey Mason and Dianne Reeves.


The vibrations of Dianne’s tones are so at peace in a room that should be so daunting. Herbie, Christian and Harvey radiate as one. Individually each has such a special sound and delivery but tonight, there is a seamless and effortless sonic consistency that creates a new level in the mastery of understanding, clarity, hearing and togetherness.Disney
It has been a decade since the rise of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Frank Geary along with the Disney family have done such a marvelous job creating the perfect environment for presentation at its best! Herbie on a moments notice decides that the band will perform Disney’s classic  “When You wish Upon a Star”. herbie-hancock-2011-2-17-18-30-6The mystic version with Herbie on piano and synth, mixing the magic as Harvey and Christian shell game the sound into recognition is a fantastic way not only to keep the minds sharp but, to create new musical pathways to our nostalgic desires.


Literally situated at the epicenter of sound surrounded by a full house, the trio construction of the most solid, creative jazz phrases, displaying true individuality, come together so brilliantly as they paint Picassos of Herbie Hancock classics. Taking the extremely familiar and creating an abstract collage of magnificence is a breathe of fresh air. This shows much respect in that the musicians play for the audience and not to an audience.

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These are our modern day masters and it would be so easy for them to play what they know. For the last several years, Herbie, Dianne and Christian have each served as the Artistic Creative Chair for the LAPhil; designing and creating the programming for each of the jazz series’ at the bowl. This has been another way for them to share their ideas of the music that they like and consider to be the most promising with the vast amount of patrons and subscribers at the bowl.

HErbieHe jokes and says maybe the tune should have been called “Los Angeles” but, Herbie collaborated on a song with his sister Jean and they wrote a composition called “Manhattan”, with the lyrics depicting the delights if a magic city! Herbie and Dianne performed the song as a duo, taking the powerful dynamics of the Disney and turning us all into an intimate salon of friends.

“The Island of Fantasy” brings Christian and Harvey back to the stage.
Everyone here tonight, obviously magnificent in their own right are truly enjoying each other’s company and talents. The smiles depict their many years of friendship and probably wondering why they don’t do this more often.

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In another duo setting Dianne and Christian play with each other and us as the get the audience to snap to Sinatra’s “One for my Baby”. Yes, Dianne did win a Grammy for this one but, tonight had the fun and funky embellishments.
I love how the trio just dives in deep deconstruction as they dissect more classic Hancock compositions so brilliantly! This is music served with a fork, knife and silk napkins, no spoons, a five star medley extravaganza!

After two standing ovations and an encore, there was a question and answer session. This is something that is generally not done with the Jazz Series but since we had not only phenomenal talent but also, former Artistic Chairs in the house, Laura Connelly, Director of Presentations decided it would be a good opportunity to ask a few questions and let the audience do the same.

Diane1 Dianne formerly of Blue Note Records and now on Concord reminisces on her first self titled album on Blue Note produced by her cousin George Duke and featured players like Freddie Hubbard with tony William, Stanley Clark, Herbie Hancock of course and her good friend and ours Billy Childs. “Harvest Time” was one of her favorites from that recording. Dianne was actually the first to sing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. She also has a new recording called, “Beautiful Life” which was a record of collaboration produced by Grammy winning Terri Lyne Carrington, first woman to win in the “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” with “Money Jungle”.


Herbie is teaching six lectures on the ethics of jazz in Boston. It is open to the public and he spent six months creating the curriculum at Harvard. Don Edmonson, who is one of the most avid supporters of live jazz music here Los Angeles attended one of Herbies lectures here in Los Angeles earlier in the day. He asked Herbie why he decided to speak upon racism in the music. Initially you might think this may have been a challenging question but, not at all. Herbie paused and reflected as his passion for humanity, dignity and oneness expressed that we are all one and that there is no room for this type of color distinction when it comes to music. “It is unethical not to respect your fellow man”. There have been many lessons learned but, it still continues and we have to eradicate it.

We also know Herbie to be one of the musicians who loves to be in and on the cutting edge of technology. His latest endeavor is with new technology called “Leap Motion” which lets you control your computer without touching it; like the movie “Minority Report”. Can you imagine what Herbie will do with that! He encourages people to get out of the comfort zone in music and in life!

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Christian has a Hollywood Bowl performance coming up in the near future. You might remember a few years back when Christian had a chance to perform in a Big Band setting with one of his heroes of music, James Brown. This year he will be celebrating once again with the music of James Brown. When asked why he loves James Brown so much he replies, “You can’t hear James and not move”.

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They each talk about The Great American Song, how the standards never get old and how they love to re-clothe them and make them new!


LeRoy Downs

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The San Francisco Jazz Collective at Zipper Hall

by on Oct.20, 2013, under Events

SF Jazz at Colburn

Sf Jazz at Colburn’s Zipper Hall

Eight pieces of brilliance as the San Francisco Jazz Collective, the ever morphing amoeba of exuberance hits the stage displaying the quality of mastery that it has become known for.  A sound that is big, always paying respect to those giant steps that walk before us.  I see a few new faces in the band, Obed Calvaire seated in the drum chair, and Warren Wolf swingin’ them things!  

I listen as I feel the vibration of a Stevie composition. Stevie Wonder? I thought they were celebrating the music of Chick Corea? Maybe it’s just a “Vision” in my mind, and an awesome arrangement at that! Well, Chick was last year which tells me that I slipped up somewhere along the way and missed out. This year SF Jazz is celebrating 10 beautiful years of solid sound. For those who have not had the opportunity to experience the Collective, each year they pay homage to one of our extraordinary monuments in the business. Folks like Wayne, McCoy, Ornette, Trane, Hutch, Horace, Monk, Herbie, Chick and interestingly enough Stevie, which says so much about respect for music. Now if you can’t recognize the artists by me only mentioning a first or last name, see me after class.

Obed Calvaire is holding down the head-swinging undertone as the Collective floats and swirls Wonder’s “Vision”. Warren Wolf is a delight with Brother Ed Simon making the melody swing in that new jack kind if way. What is great about the Collective is that they not only arrange the music of the giants, their commission includes composing new compositions as well, written specifically for the sound of the members in the band. Arranging the works of our legends and creating original music is the flower and the concept that keeps the music growing, a great necessity in this ever-present world of mediocrity, bureaucracy and glass ceiling lifestyles. Fresh music is potent brainpower and the content keeps us sharp, thinking and open! The audience is listening!

The combination of fresh old school and brilliant new school expands the palette of sonic delight. It keeps the old folks smiling and digging the new swing while the youngsters reminisce their parents past and rise on new clouds of cognitive contemporary bliss. Two generations groovin’ together creates conversation between young and old. Think about it, a level playing field where each generation teaches the other instead of thinking that the other is out of touch. Young and old sharing ideas with each other which beats the usual one on one relationship with an electronic device. Who knew that jazz was the key to saving the American family structure!

First up to the microphone is Miguel Zenon welcoming the audience and introducing the band. He is one of the original members of this 10-year old institution. They started with a composition by Dave Douglas, a piece called “Alcatraz” from a San Francisco suite. Tonight they are playing the music from the last decade, which gives them great joy to go back and re-visit some of their favorite music from the past.
“Grand Opening” is an original piece written last year by Miguel to celebrate the grand opening of the new SF Jazz Building in San Francisco, which has the feeling of new, wondrous and welcoming feelings. The SF Jazz Center is the first of its kind built specifically for representing and presenting America’s greatest art form in a manner that truly speaks art, education, culture and music. I have not been myself but just the fact that we have a major million dollar facility built in support of jazz is not only amazing, it is a true test of the resilience of creative contemporary music, Jazz!

Speaking of new monuments built specifically for jazz, Ruth Price who is a tireless curator for jazz here in Los Angeles continues to present the best in the music against any and all odds. Yes, the old Jazz Bakery that we knew, loved and spent so much time experiencing the best in the music is no longer there but Ruth continues to present at venues all over Los Angeles until our New Jazz Bakery is Built! The property and the blue prints are all in place and once the capital is raised, the world will have two West Coast, free standing, architecturally gorgeous platforms that feature the best in jazz and demonstrate to the world that our music is our life!

Tonight we are at the Colburn School’s Zipper Auditorium and there is not a bad seat in the house.

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“Home”, Avishai Cohen’s composition is one that focuses on the meaning of home, what makes a home and where it is. As you can imagine musicians on the road all of the time must contemplate the feeling often. I know Miguel Zenon is thinking about his new beautiful baby girl as he plays, Avishai reveals his expression; David Sanchez opens with a lamenting interlude and Matt Penman closing with the solace of arco. It is a feeling of longing and loneliness. This is one of the reasons why our love and support of this great art is so appreciated amongst all musicians. Their life presents us with a gift of sound and we can return the sentiment simply by showing love, appreciation and our thanks.

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One of the things that I think every artist should do during their performance is talk to their audience. So many cats get up, bang out their compositions, take a bow and roll out. The knowledge is so stratified with those who get every, phrase note and implication and those who don’t have a clue. Talking to the audience evens out the streams of consciousness giving those who may be new to experiencing this music a starting point.
Matt has also been in the collective for nine years. He introduced a tune that Joe Lovano brought in when the band was celebrating Wayne’s music, “Infant Eyes” and dedicated it to a young lady in the audience for her birthday. Robin Eubanks lights up and takes control of the stage on this one with a solo that sets up the band for a big sound. This almost sounds like a Stefon Harris arrangement. Ed Simon talks about supporting the Jazz Bakery. He closes the evening with a piece called “Half Full” a composition written by the original artistic director in year one, Joshua Redman.

And in an instant, the music has concluded leaving us once again enriched by the nutrients of a sonic jazz presentation; vitamins for the heart, brain, soul and body. You can’t ask for much more especially when the encore is a Bobby Hutcherson composition. This music brings us together in these moments that we call our lives. Take it in and be about the music so that the music can be about you!

LeRoy Downs


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