The pair kicked off their world tour at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle on Saturday, referring to the evening as a “first rehearsal.”
Greeted by a standing ovation before they played a note, jazz piano masters Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea slipped quietly into their first world tour since 1978 at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre on Saturday, March 14.
“Thanks for coming to our first rehearsal,” said Corea.
It’s an old joke — jazz musicians do tend to work things out on stage — but in this case, it was no exaggeration. The two-hour concert began with a segment of highly sophisticated, atmospheric noodling — on acoustic and electric keyboards — as Corea and Hancock probed and feinted, politely searching for common ground and eventually landing on the Cole Porter ballad, “Easy to Love.”
After undertaking Corea’s knotty “Implications”— named, he told Hancock, as a response to Herbie’s title “Possibilities” — the two “discussed” their next tune by scat-speaking rhythm sounds into one microphone, sounding like a couple of Inuit throat singers.
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The old friends clearly were having fun. Dressed casually — Chick in jeans and T-shirt, Herbie in sport coat and tie, both wearing sneakers — they seemed to be playing mostly for each other, at first. Corea continually smiled and raised his eyebrows at Hancock, responding to various nuances in the music.
When they launched into Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance,” however, the concert took flight, as Hancock’s mysteriously floating chords and Corea’s robust, jagged melodies hooked up. On Miles Davis’ “Solar,” the two traded solos, accompanying each other so deftly it was sometimes difficult to spot when the ball was handed off.
They were playing to a crowd of initiates, who erupted in cheers of recognition as soon as Hancock hinted at the moody, left-hand pulse of “Maiden Voyage.” Listeners were rewarded with a delicate, silky piece woven from subtly shifting threads.
Brought back for an encore, Corea embarked on a long, rubato preamble to his most famous tune, “Spain,” then, oddly, led the crowd — clearly delighted — in a call-and-response singalong.
For a second encore, they offered Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” and the crowd chimed in again, clapping on the backbeat.
The pianists go on to Denver and other western locales before heading to Europe and Down Under. Audiences there no doubt will benefit from the Seattle warm-up.