Gershwin. Herbie Hancock has fashioned his birthday present to George Gershwin (and us) in the form of a suite, a musical collage that presents not only Gershwin's music, but other music popular during the time Gershwin was active as well. Hancock arranges this suite with a carefully selected and disparate group of artists that range from James Carter to Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Kathleen Battle to Joni Mitchell.
Bookends. Hancock's homage begins with an (extremely) abstract and percussion-dense "Fascinating Rhythm" that is entitled "Overture". This overture is brief, lasting a mere 55 seconds before moving into "It Ain't Necessarily So", featuring Eddie Henderson, Kenny Garrett and James Carter. This piece is reprised as an interlude following Hancock's duet with Chick Corea on James P. Johnson's "Blueberry Rhyme", a performance which recalls the same two shaking hands on "Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)" from the recently re-released An Evening with Herbie Handcock and Chick Corea.
Breaking to the Chase. What makes this recording worth the purchase is Joni Mitchell. She is a fine, fine jazz singer. So fine, I had to obtain her Mingus and Miles of Aisles discs with Weather Report. I listened to them again and again. Mitchell's "The Man I Love" and "Summertime" couple her superbly again with Wayne Shorter, who plays some of the most pragmatic soprano saxophone around. Stevie Wonder adds his most distinctive harmonica on this tune as well as his vocals and harmonica on a funky, serpentine reading of "St. Louis Blues."
Coda. Hancock ends his song and star cacophony with a simple, Hancockian reading of "Embraceable You". "Embraceable You" meets "Maiden Voyage". Gershwin meets Hancock: in tasteful reverence and jazz spirit.
Track Listing: Overture (Fascinating Rhythm), It Ain't Necessarily So, The Man I Love, Here Come De Honey Man, St. Louis Blues, Lullaby, Blueberry Rhyme, It Ain't Necessarily So (Interlude), Cotton Tail, Summertime, My Man's Gone, Prelude in C# Minor, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G, 2nd Movement (Maurice Ravel), Embraceable You.
Personnel: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea: Piano; Madou Dembelle: Djembe; Massamba Diop: Talking Drum; Cryo Baptista, Bireyma Guiye, Cheik Mbaye: Percussion; Eddie Henderson: Trumpet; Kenny Garrett: Alto Saxophone; James Carter: Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Wayne Shorter: Tenor Saxophone; Bakithi Kumalo: Bass and Guitar; Ira Coleman: Bass; Terri-Lynn Carrington: Drums, Marlon Graves: Guitar, Robert Sadin: Percussion Programming; Stevie Wonder: Harmonica and Vocals; Charles Curtis: Cello, The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Kathleen Battle: Vocals, Joni Mitchell: Vocals.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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