Herbie Hancock Unplugged. Literally.
Many great artists show great humility
While I was visiting Shanghai, I noticed that Herbie Hancock was appearing there in concert a couple of nights. He was even quoted in the China Daily newspaper, calling China "a beacon of [hope and friendship]". Seeing Herbie's name reminded me of the day I met him. My old friend Victor was playing bass in the Monster Band at that time and so was my other piano hero, Nate Ginsberg. Imagine being a keyboard player for Herbie? I was able to go hang out at a rehearsal they were having. The photo shows the look the guys had - hair really changes in 3 decades.
I've always been more interested in the piano than the guitar, so my heroes over the years have been Art Tatum, Oscar Petersen, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Monk, McCoy Tyner, Herbie, Chick Corea, Keith Jarret and of course the great Bill Evans. I've seen several of thgese guys live. We saw Bill Evans in an L.A. club where they wouldn't let us sit in the empty front row, because it was "reserved for the press". It remained empty all night. Bill, and Monk too, were both in their last phases of illness when I saw them at Shelly's Manne Hole. Maybe in Bill's case substance abuse added to the mix. I know it wouldn't have been pleasant to meet either at that time of their lives, but Herbie... He was already huge in jazz, respected by all and now he was a rising star with the younger generation, funky music with great musicians, monsters playing the shit out of it! As you got bigger, many accused him of "selling out". Funny how that happens, in the arts, success is always associated with "selling out"
So the memory of Herbie is simple, They were playing a high energy tune, I moved over to the other side in front of the stage and just as I crossed over to get a better look at Herbie, I unplugged the entire P.A. system and all the amps, silencing everyone but Sheila, whose percussion went on for a few seconds. I immediately put the conectors back together or maybe a roadie did while I tried for invisibility. The fact is though, I did meet Herbie after the rehearsal, he of course recognized me immediately and waved away my apology. I noticed his reaction as I told him what you do in that situation, trying to express your admiration, something they've heard a zillion times before. Herbie is undoubtedly one of the great piano geniuses of all time. Unlike say, Bill Evans, who was a horrible, unhappy guy to just about everyone, Herbie made me feel like telling him about listening to his music mattered, it pleased him that his artistic endeavors made a difference to people, regardless of who or where they were. Most will never have to find out, but if you achieved stardom, what exactly would you be like? I wonder if the growing number of wannabes on reality shows are practicing their "nice" chops?