Rafi Zabor’s Updoc, Fri Nov 14 & Tues Nov 18

Sometime in the mid-1980s, when I was working on a profile of Jack DeJohnette, I got to watch Herbie Hancock in action at a recording session at the Power Station. It was an all-star Michael Brecker date, and Brecker, Jack, Charlie Haden, and Mike Stern or was it Pat Metheny did a lot of waiting around while Herbie showed up late, greeted everyone with his customary grace and politesse, dropped a Buddhist book on the control room table, then had to make a couple of long phone calls to the Coast. Pianist Don Grolnick was the producer, so he was able to take the band through the chart of the first tune, but then there was some more waiting around while Herbie disappeared to who-knows-where. Finally he ambled into the studio proper, took a first polite peek at the score on the Steinway’s music rack, and then the band hit the uptempo labyrinth of the tune. Herbie had the first solo and entered with a quick handful of notes, peeked at the score again, played a longer variation of his opening phrase and then sailed his thematic material into the heart of the music like a Cunard liner impersonating a cigarette boat. The whole band sprang to life and there were gasps in the control room. No one could quite believe the sudden wealth of inventiveness pullulating from the keybaord, and no I can’t play it for you on this week’s Updoc—Friday at 8PM and noon next Tuesday, Power Station time—because Grolnick, expecting a mere runthrough, didn’t turn the tape recorder on, thereby missing maybe 20 minutes of unrepeatable amazement. HH is much in evidence lately, with Harvard lectures and a new memoir and all, so the show presents a scattering of his music—he’s done so much it’s impossible to do more than that in two hours—with breaks for his worthy constituents Johann Sebastian Bach and Duke Ellington; and for a couple of funny Herbie Hancock stories I lacked the nerve to tell in full detail, but I trust you to get the pernt.HerbiieLarge

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