Labor Day Weekend’s Detroit International Jazz Festival is looming, and Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press is profiling some of its headliners. In today’s column, pianist Herbie Hancock tells Stryker about his early experience with Miles Davis.
“After a couple of months of trying to play what I thought would please Miles, I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to let this out.’
“So the next gig, which I think was in Chicago, I just played what I really wanted, and if it clashed with something Miles did, I threw it in there anyway.
“After the set I thought I was going to get fired. Miles walked up and said” — and here Hancock imitates Davis’ famous raspy whisper — ” ‘Why didn’t you play like that before?’
“Miles wanted to hear me. That set me free.”
Here’s a little of what Stryker writes about Hancock:
Hancock’s go-for-broke attitude electrifies the bandstand. Very little in jazz matches the anticipation that rises when Hancock starts a solo, because to a degree unusual even in an art based on improvisation, you never know what’s going to happen — and there’s a chance you’re about to hear the greatest piano solo you’ve ever heard.
To read the whole thing, go here, Perhaps you’ll be as astonished as I was by the size Hancock’s performance fees.
Ted O'Reilly says
From the Free Press article: ‘…Hancock’s upcoming “River: The Joni Letters,” a collection of music by Joni Mitchell due next month with such diverse singers as Norah Jones, Tina Turner and Luciana Souza.’
Now, that might be wonderful, but does it require a talent like Herbie’s to make it happen? I’d rather hear him record himself playing great Jazz on that Fazioli.
Bill Kirchner says
I’m curious about why you’re astonished by Herbie’s $65K
performance fee. John McDonough reported years ago that Oscar Peterson was asking $80K. And surely Keith Jarrett and a few others are in a similar rarified atmosphere.
Mark Stryker says
When I interviewed Herbie, advance copies of the Mitchell disc were not available and we didn’t talk much about it, though I did note to myself that the vocalists were an interesting lot and with Wayne Shorter and Dave Holland on the date, there was true improvisatory potential. Jon Garelick, the excellent jazz writer for the Boston Phoenix, has heard the advance and his brief report, which comes in the context of a preview to Hancock’s Aug. 25 concert at Berklee, is promising:
… it’s an impressive list, with expected guests and some good left-field surprises: Souza (“Amelia”), Norah Jones (“Court and Spark”), and Corinne Bailey Rae (“River”) — of course. But also Tina Turner (“Edith and the Kingpin”!) and the great lady Herself (“Tea Leaf Prophecy”). Perhaps best of all is Leonard Cohen intoning a Beat-poet spoken-word rendition of “The Jungle Line.” The biggest surprise: on first listen, this is not a commercial sop like Herbie’s last guest-star-studded crossover outing, 2005’s Possibilities, which featured, among others, Annie Lennox, Christina Aguilera, Paul Simon, and Sting, in a hodgepodge of old and new pop songs. “The Joni Letters” is a moody, cohesive whole, with long stretches of subdued improvisation between verses from Hancock and Wayne Shorter. A few pieces are instrumental only, and one of them is Shorter’s classic “Nefertiti.” (Joni as the mysterious, impetuous queen of the Nile?)