Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Warsaw Summer Jazz Days day 4 - Herbie Hancock

Before the real post starts I'd like to give a huge thank you to Jazzarium.pl for the invitation to the Warsaw Festival. It's been realy great and I've enjoyed tremendously those couple of days in the Warsaw.

One does not too often have a chance to see a legend. Also, a legend seems to be a fitting finale to a big international jazz festival. (well, a near finale, there's a postscriptum to the festival si due in two weeks).
The concerts starts. Steady drumming. Bass joins the beat. So does the guitar. And finally the legend appears on the stage. And about three minutes into the concert all I can think about is how scale guitar solos should be left to the Satriani's of this world, how sci-fi synth, vocoder, guitarboard etc sounds might have been the baddest, nastiest, funkiest thing once upon a time but are dated and cheesy now, and how the groove is steady, the beat is fat but it must be on some kind of low-fat, vegetable oil,  definitely not butter. And it really kills me because Herbie seems to be a perfectly nice fellow, he has a nice chat with the audience, which seems to be enjoying themselves, damn I love "Watermelon Man", so why can't I enjoy myself when they play the piece in the 17/4 tempo? Instead I feel like the old grumpy muppet from the balcony. I mean I know it's supposed to be a show, but I can't force myself to like it. And I'm trying.
When I feel all hope is gone musicians save me, Lionel plays/sings a perfectly joufull, sunny, the africa kind of  sunny song with impressive bluesy/ethnic chops on the guitar, choir effect on the  voice, lip-drums effects. Positively touching. And then Herbie sits behind the piano and improvises an impromptu recital filled with intricate lines, brilliantly narrated, precious, delicate, nostalgic, lyrical. There are echoes of Musorgsky, of Satie, possible even some tribute to romantic Chopin. I hear the guy behind me rumbling that if the concert continues this way everyone will fall asleep, but  it would have been a beautifull falling asleep.
Instead the other guys come back, and they had me perplexed for a moment, with ominous brew mixing some hip-hop influences, some rap samples, but the second It's starting to seem like it could get interesting they hit the "Cantaloupe Island" theme and blue note guitar sound has nothing on Freddie Hubbard's cornet, Herbie plays a thunderous, virtuosic solo proving definitely that he's a brilliant piano player, a pointless point which didn't have to be proven, if you excuse the pun. And they readily come back to the low-calories fat beat and the point of absurd is reached once the band gets a standing ovation, and they're brought back on stage with disco beat, rock riff, hip-hop sample and they kill the innocent "Chameleon" with the senseless speed of their fingers. Shouldn't at least be the people who clapped a minute before headbanging? Instead they sit rather stiff in their comfortable, overpaid chairs and stare awe-struck at the stage. No breakdancers in the crowd.
I try to near the exit, unnoticed, and I go searching for the other grumpy old guy so we could take our places on the balcony and then the curtain wil go up and the kermit will show up on the stage and all the other muppets and the real show will begin.

In the meantime if you want some legend you have to turn back the clock. Go to the ancient times where gods and heroes played like this:

Herbie Hancock - piano, keyboard, synth, vocoder, guitarboard (or is it guitar-synth?)
Lionel Loueke - guitar, voice
James Genus - bass guitar
Trevor Lawrence - drums

Congress Concert Hall. Warsaw. 15.07.12

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