Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bop bop mwee bop

Fabulous concert last night (and when have I ever had so many amazing concerts in such a short time span -- Carrie Newcomer, Joshua Bell, Bruce Springsteen, and now this?) -- Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, and Jack DeJohnette. Jazz fans are probably salivating just at the names, as those are three of the most talented musicians around these days. Collectively, they've performed with everyone from Miles Davis to Yo-Yo Ma; McFerrin & Corea have recorded at least a couple of albums together, and Corea and DeJohnette have collaborated, but the short (9-show) tour they're doing now is the first time these three have all performed together.

Well, you'd think they'd been carrying on this musical conversation for their whole lives, judging from how comfortable they were with one another on stage. But that's the genius of jazz, of course: that it is a conversation, that its foundation rests in improvisation. And improvisation is exactly what we got. The three men walked out on stage (and, from my seat in the very front row -- because that's just how I roll, hehe -- I applauded wildly), acknowledged the audience, and took their seats: Corea at the piano, McFerrin in a chair front-and-center, and DeJohnette behind an enormous and complicated-looking drum set.

Corea's bench squeaked as he pulled it up to the piano, and McFerrin vocalized a funny squeak/creak in response, and we were off. For a little over an hour they just played, in every sense of the word: McFerrin channeling everything from Billie Holiday to, um, possibly some kind of space alien; Chick Corea reaching into the piano to pluck and damp the strings and going over to the other side of the stage to hang out by the drums and play some cowbell; Jack DeJohnette singing and joking around and managing to make the percussion into an entire orchestra somehow. Playing.

After a while the audience began to realize that they weren't going to play a "song," stop, take applause, and then start up again: they were just going to keep going, nonstop. That was extremely cool, actually. Occasionally there was a smattering (or more) of applause for a particularly virtuostic solo. And, as always when Bobby McFerrin is there, the audience got to be a part of it too, singing and improvising right along with McFerrin's expert conducting. I'm not sure who was having the most fun in the room, but most everyone in the audience was spellbound & grinning, and I saw big grins on all three musicians' faces at times.

After they finally brought things to a close and took their bows to a standing ovation, the three musicians did something I would never have expected at a show like this: they came down to the front of the stage, sat on the edge of the stage, and took questions for a little while. One of the first questions was "how much of that was improvised?" And the answer: "All of it." (And then McFerrin went into a Garth Brooks voice and "apologized" for not doing any country-western songs. Hee!) Someone else asked if they were going to be recording together, and the answer to that was sort of noncommittal -- so maybe plans are underway but not finalized yet. One certainly hopes so, anyway. And apparently they have been recording all of their concerts as they go along, and occasionally go back to listen to something to figure out what they did. Because it truly is all improvised, so you just never know. A few more questions, then someone asked if they could play "Spain" (one of Chick Corea's best-known tunes). They agreed, and returned to the stage. Corea played piano and both McFerrin and DeJohnette vocalized, and it was loose and lovely -- the perfect encore.

Afterwards I turned into the fangirl that I can be sometimes, and hung out near the backstage exit. Got to shake Bobby McFerrin's hand, and gave him a copy of a poem I wrote the morning after the last time I saw him in concert -- it's a poem sort of about how singing and listening are part of the same thing, and how it felt to be in the audience singing along with him, how it felt like my whole body was both singing and listening all at once. I guess that's kind of an egotistical-poet thing to do, giving him the poem like that, but I think it's a halfway decent poem (as if I am ever capable of objective judgement about my own work... hehe) and, well, why not. I am such a fangirl sometimes.

The drive home featured a large-ish coyote hanging out by the side of the road, and lightning in the distance. It was dark, but because I'd seen them on the way out, I knew that there were about a billion redbuds glowing their nearly fluorescent purple-pink in the darkness alongside the road. I really do live in a beautiful part of the world. I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

(Here's a reviewer's take on the show. He liked it,too)


Collin said...

Sounds like a fab concert. I love a good jazz show with lots of improvisation and the musicians just having a good time.

Diane K. Martin said...

And I love your enthusiasm for things!