Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock

By Anya Whitlock

Artist:  Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock

Date / Venue:  Saturday May 30th - Civic Theatre, Auckland

The Civic is always a glorious venue to see live music and coming in to open curtains, 2 synthesizers and 2 beautiful grand pianos- one Yamaha and one Steinway facing each other with a ultramarine blue backdrop of light was a unique and eerie experience. Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea came out to a warm reception which was followed with some pretty awkward warm up chat. Yeah you're each others biggest fans, yes you're both legends, but we're laughing because we're polite not because you're funny. Holy shit I hope the performance is better than the audience participation.

Herbie kicked off the concert slowly. Piano notes dropping into oceans of sound reminded me of watching rain forming puddles in slow motion. I was soon in awe of the excessive amounts of genius before me.

These two virtuosos take music to the far reaches of where it's possible to push an instrument to. Just mind boggling, intricate, wild, alive, bold, often dissonant and not always pleasant, because it pushes the aural experience past what is normal and comfortable. Much of the 1st half was reminiscent of Debussy in terms of melody and tone which was a great reminder of how vast these musicians depth of knowledge of many musical forms outside jazz is.

Both Herbie and Chick got on the synths after another much more successful audience interaction interlude. Herbie had some pretty awesome samples up his sleeves- snippets of gospel singers wailing, sexy oooos and ahhhhs and some pretty cool bass sounds. I could have listened to him on the synth all night, but Chick kept butting in with far less cool twiddles- more straight and less funky on this apparatus, although his light touch and ease with even the most complicated melodies saved this portion of the concert for me.

The old jazz standard 'Green Dolphin Street' which was immortalized by Miles Davis in 1958 was a beautiful tribute as both musicians had played with Miles in the past. They then broke into a melodic, varied and very enjoyable version of Hancock's hit 'Cantaloupe Island'. Both were playing the pianos and it was a treat to hear this classic being deconstructed by expert hands into a journey of syncopated cascading harmonies.

Herbie Hancock's composition 'Maiden Voyage' was eerie and wondrous. Yielding lilting melodies being accompanied by expansive synth tones. The performance was well crafted and effortless, transitioning into much faster and more complex sections then relaxing back into Andante with ease. Many times throughout the performance I was reminded that the piano (at its fundament) is a string and percussion instrument. They both lent forward and plucked strings inside the grand piano as well as creating new sounds by holding the strings and still banging the keys.

For the encore we got to do bit of singing along to Chick Corea's 'Spain' which Chick kicked off by dividing the audience to sing a 5 part harmony. The Synergy between these 2 musicians was incredible and the concert was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Well they did say they wanted to come back, but they are in their mid 70s...