Turning forty entitles the birthday person to a couple of acquired appreciations. One for good cigars and the second is for music listened to but not understood in adolescence. An Evening With Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea
is just such music. I was sixteen and bored with Southern Rock and decided I would try jazz out. The first jazz disc I ever bought was Stanley Clarke's first record. Through Clarke I was introduced to Return to Forever and thus Chick Corea. I knew Herbie Hancock as a jazz fusionist and sometime around the then I had also purchased the VSOP
group recordings. I listened to this music and returned to the popular music fold because I just didn't get "that jazz stuff."
Since that time I have passed through many music stages in both classical and jazz. In jazz, I arrived at a favorite period of 1945 to 1955: the heyday of Bebop. I have since extended that favorite period to 1967 to include Hard Bop and ending when Miles Davis began his electric explorations. Maiden Voyage. An Evening With...
is still compelling after 20 years, though some of the shine is off its chrome. The novelty is lost when one listens to Keith Jarrett's live solo piano wanderings all the way through George Winston's New Age definitions. What is not lost is the superior musicianship in this recording. In 1978, during the height of Fusion, it was novel for two musicians known for their electric sensibilities to come out and play acoustically. I suspect that the majority of young listeners at the time did not realize that both pianists had lives before the musical light bulb. Those lives are well and cleverly represented here. Two standards, two Hancock originals, one Corea original, and one dually composed piece populate this recording. Someday My Prince Will Come.
Appropriately, even today, the disc begins with "Someday My Prince Will Come" that silly cartoon song rescued from obscurity by Miles Davis. Both pianists play it with a dreamy, ethereal quality. It is followed by "Liza", which is the closest thing to a standard played as a standard on this recording. It is a nod at an older playing style before moving on to the more contemporary music. Both pianists composed "Button Up", ostensibly for this recording and tour.
All of the performances are lengthy. The shortest is "Liza" clocking in at 9:00 and the longest is "La Fiesta" marking 22:02. "Button Up" and "February Moments" were new compositions at the time. But the two originals ? Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" and Corea's "La Fiesta" ? are the high points of this recording. "Maiden Voyage" was considered "very weak" by the editors of the Penguin Guide to Jazz. Not so. A splendid performance. Nostalgia.
I am glad this music was re-released. It is not so much a stroll down memory lane as it is an opportunity for reappraisal, an opportunity for positive change. This is a disc for all contemporary solo piano fans of either jazz, new age, or popular.