Sunday, February 10, 2008

Always nice to see Herbie Hancock perform

As much as I find the Grammy awards to be a tedious waste of time in which pointless awards are given to disposable pop hacks, I'll acknowledge that very occasionally one gets to see and hear performances that truly have some lasting value. Herbie Hancock performing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is one of those occasions. Given Hancock's Gershwin's World recording from a decade ago, it seemed an obvious enough choice. The performance was tight, and Herbie was his usual virtuoso self. The tune was, in a word, sultry. Gershwin's a composer I need to explore more than I have, and tonight was a reminder to do so. His work is more along the lines of the stuff my parents would have dug (and still do), along with other piano virtuosos such as ragtime composer Scott Joplin.

Granted, my first exposure to Herbie Hancock would have been during the era when Rockit was his hit single from the classic album Future Shock. Some of his electronic work is well-worth seeking out: Sextant, from the early 1970s, foretells the ambient scene of the 1990s (as well as his own Future 2 Future album of a few years ago), Head Hunters, Mr. Hands, and Dis is Da Drum. Of course it's hard to go wrong with any of his acoustic recordings on the Blue Note label, or the piano solo and duo albums recorded toward the end of the 1970s. Then of course there was that intriguing album that Hancock recorded in collaboration with kora player Foday Musa Suso in the mid-1980s, Village Life. That recording had a gentle spirit to it and a sound transcending continents, time, and traditions. Stay away from those disco albums (why he recorded any of those is beyond me), and you'll do fine. Hopefully he has a number of good years left in him, and hopefully someone will have the good sense to keep that beautiful music alive and in the public ear for a long time to come.

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