Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock at the Barbican, London

2015 review. Last time Corea and Hancock toured extensively together before this tour began in March was 37 years ago. That partnership of the two former Miles Davis players who had experienced great success with their own bands by then separately …

Published: 9 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 years.

2015 review. Last time Corea and Hancock toured extensively together before this tour began in March was 37 years ago.

That partnership of the two former Miles Davis players who had experienced great success with their own bands by then separately with Return to Forever and Headhunters drew on a different side of their artistry than jazz-rock fusion or jazz-funk to produce the expansive and intimate albums An Evening with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea in Concert recorded in San Francisco; and later, switching the billing, CoreaHancock.

Coming on to the Barbican stage to a sea of applause, there was a little banter between the two, no tense beginning here. Herbie produced a Miles Davis impression, “You gotta look at the shoes”, he growled with a grin on his face, in his case a shiny smart casual pair, in Chick’s colourful Nike sneakers. Each player had an electronic keyboard by their side in addition to a concert grand and the concert began with not notes from any instrument but a rustle of sheet music from Herbie. “Did you get that, Bernie?” he asked the sound man, as the microphone picked up the sheafing of manuscript, the fanning paper merging with the unceremonious lifting up and banging down hard of the piano lid in a jagged fashion from Corea as if he was using bellows to stoke the fire.

The early part of the concert, there was no interval, it was one continuous set, was quite abstract with imagistic blocks of chordal experimentation and plenty of eye contact between the two. Neither indulged in question-and-response type statements that you sometimes get in overly elaborate two-piano concerts and this was more integrated and all the better for it but hard to read. More about shifting lines and the sharing of darting rhythmical ideas and hardly any riffs let alone beat in the early sections. Before they began the pair asked the audience if we wanted “something” (i.e. something prepared) or “nothing” (free improvisation), and certainly the early part was, as hinted by Herbie, the free improv side.

As the concert progressed there was more prepared material and compositions of their own that both could play in their sleep including some of Herbie’s most familiar and often played classics ‘Cantaloupe Island’ and later ‘Maiden Voyage’ to the applause of recognition from the sold out audience. And there were also some incredible keyboard samples intermingled among the grander piano gestures and tumbles of notes, Corea by now having taken off his light jacket to reveal a white T-shirt with a pink square design on the side, proceeding to trigger clave-like latinate percussion while Herbie conjured post-‘Rockit’-type whoops and chirrups and little boings and surprises from his keyboard rig.

The pair played with dim purply hues as their backdrop in the stage lighting and there was a mellow vibe partly encouraged by this. Some of the best moments were the quieter solo sections from Herbie and the way the pair deftly unpicked the theme from Rodrigo’s ‘Concierto de Aranjuez.’ Audience participation in the encore was subtly done with different sections assigned a note to form a big choral effect swelling as Chick and Herbie waved their arms like a conductor, “complex harmonies” Corea commented by way of introduction, and this actually worked well, the audience “sitting in with the duo” as Herbie kindly put it.

Stephen Graham

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Cécile McLorin Salvant and the Aaron Diehl trio, Ronnie Scott’s

2015 review. This was the second of the singer’s sold-out nights this week at the famous Soho jazz club. Two years on from WomanChild, which was just about the best thing about 2013 in terms of jazz records, Aaron Diehl once again McLorin Salvant’s …

Published: 9 Nov 2019. Updated: 4 years.

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2015 review. This was the second of the singer’s sold-out nights this week at the famous Soho jazz club.

Two years on from WomanChild, which was just about the best thing about 2013 in terms of jazz records, Aaron Diehl once again McLorin Salvant’s pianistic muse especially effective in an intimate duo in the first set on ‘Don’t Explain’. The singer’s skilful theatrical manner and commanding stage presence puts you at ease, her piercing look willing to communicate every word of every song: she can curl a syllable to sculpt it from serious to a smile with the greatest of subtlety that still manages to convey surprise, one of the key elements of jazz performance.

The audience began to respond to her in the first set when she sang ‘Jeepers Creepers’ and the singer showed her playfulness on a range of material that journeyed to the 1920s and forward up to the 1950s and beyond.

Miami-born, a previous winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk prize in the States, the singer has Haitian and French roots and spoke French as a child and even moved to France as a teenager where her jazz journey began, and she sang a song in French briefly doing the evening. In her trio besides Diehl, whose feathery sometimes baroque touch and range of voicings illuminated the singer’s every move, McLorin Salvant was accompanied by the supple double bassist Paul Sikivie, excellent in duo with her on the encore ‘Lonely Town’ (‘The crowds rush by, a million faces pass before your eyes’ so atmospherically delivered), and drummer Lawrence Leathers whose style reminded me of Clarence Penn’s, his rhythmic impetus always on the verge of some molten build into exuberant swing.

The vocal acrobatics, Betty Carter-like sometimes, were kept under wraps to a certain extent as the singer seemed more interested in teasing out every nuance from the lyric, sometimes bawdy and sensuously playful for instance on the Ethel Waters and Bessie Smith songs, going in and out of the note as she explored the size and space and tonal complexity and meaning that she needed: her daring improvisational sense is also very pronounced.

McLorin Salvant also had news for the band: letting them know ever so gently that the new album will now be released in September as she’d just heard that it had been pushed back from August. It’s called For One to Love her label announced yesterday and some of the songs that will be on it McLorin Salvant sang on this occasion: a winningly mischievous take on ‘Stepsisters Lament’ from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella; Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘Wives And Lovers’, a song the singer told us she found ‘funny’ when she heard it first (the song’s lyrics remaining quite controversial); ‘The Trolley Song’ where Leathers came into his own with his ding-ding-dings and multiple percussive effects; and ‘Something’s Coming’ from Westside Story an interpretation that had a number of tempo changes and became a huge vehicle for improvisation near the end. A superb show: superlatives are somehow inadequate.

Stephen Graham

Cécile McLorin Salvant, above, at Ronnie Scott’s.

Photo: Benjamin Amure