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REVIEW: Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea at the Barbican

Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea
©Edu Hawkins (www.eduhawkins.com)

Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea
(Barbican, July 7th 2015. Second night of two. Review by Sean Corby)

Super bands and all-star concerts often don’t live up to our expectations. There’s so much more to creating moments of magic than lumping a bunch of big name artists together. But last night, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, two undisputed giants of the music, were simply magnificent.

From the moment they entered the packed arena, with Herbie walking on stage backwards, an antic that his great friend and accomplice Wayne Shorter would have been proud of, and Chick looking casual and cheerful, there was an air of fun and playfulness about the proceedings. Hancock and Corea have enjoyed a connection since Herbie replaced Chick in Mongo Santameria’s band and Chick took Herbie’s chair in Miles’s Bitches Brew period outfit. Both have been responsible for extending the vocabulary and sonic palette of the music, they have both embraced technology, pioneered funk-rock excursions, and each has followed a spiritual path through which they have grown as human beings beyond music.

Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea
©Edu Hawkins (www.eduhawkins.com)

They began the performance with ‘nothing’. That is, we were told that they’d just play, and whatever came, came. Herbie sat at his laptop/keyboard set-up placed alongside his Faziola grand and began teasing out samples reminiscent of his glorious Rockit days, the atmospherics conjured images of celestial grandeur, interspersed with rhythmic interruptions and risqué samples of grunts and groans.

Then, with both positioned at their pianos, the magic began. Waves of complex, dissonant lines poured forth and gradually took melodic and harmonic shape, morphing into the beautiful Miles Davis composition Solar, made famous by another piano luminary, the great Bill Evans. There was a sense of joyfulness to the playing, and a seemingly effortless stream of swinging and soulful ideas. However, just when you got your foot tapping, the groove seemed to vaporise, and once again we were bathed in the elixir of sound!

This pattern continued throughout the evening, with audience members around me joining in a game of ‘name that tune’ as either titan would begin improvising, deftly leading the other into a form they both knew. We were treated to an extended Maiden Voyage, Herbie’s modal masterpiece, and of course a cosmic version of Cantaloupe Island before a rapturous ovation inspired two encores!

Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea
©Edu Hawkins (www.eduhawkins.com)

I came away knowing I’d been in the presence of two very special musicians who have paved the way for future generations and who, having lived and breathed this music, not just as an art form but as a culture, creating wonderful, complex music that can communicate with their audience more deeply than any words, set an example to all who aspire to being jazz artists.

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