Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015: Herbie Hancock & All Who Followed

Ever so perfectly, this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival opened its eleven-day program with a performance at Hamer Hall by two of jazz history’s most influential and pioneering artists: Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. One of them, Herbie Hancock, is a musical hero in the life of Chick Corea, me and millions of other people around the world living, passed and yet born.

Herbie Hancock at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock: “My friend and inspiration”

Chick Corea introduced Herbie Hancock to the Melbourne audience as “his friend and inspiration”. Two days earlier at their Brisbane show, Chick told a story of the epiphany he’d had when first hearing Herbie Hancock play live after Chick moved to New York in the 60s. “Sure, he was playing jazz and blues and stuff” Chick reminisced, “but way over there” (gesturing to a distant place). “This guy opened my imagination to all that’s possible”.

Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Chick Corea (r)

I imagine if you asked the hundreds of diverse international and Australian festival artists who performed in the ten days after opening night, they’d have their own stories to tell about the profound inspiration and influence of Herbie Hancock and his music in their world. And judging from the multi-generational audience’s response to the pair’s arrival on stage and to each part of the flawlessly-played 90 minute performance that followed, I’d bet too that all those audience members could add many more stories of Herbie Goodness.

Herbie Hancock concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

This current world tour is Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea’s first together since 1978. This time around they bought electronic keyboards/synthesisers to sit alongside their pianos – utilised most at the start of the show with an improvised piece which made us feel like we were hearing the score to a weird and wonderful sci-fi movie being created live right before our eyes.

From there they moved into revamped renditions of well-known seminal classics from each of their long musical histories including Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage and the greatest grooving blessing of the night, Cantaloupe Island.  The show finished with a version of Chick Corea’s Spain where they enlisted the audience in five-part vocal harmonies and a piano call-and-vocal response exercise which if nothing else, highlighted the distinctive playing styles of these two artists: Chick’s the straighter, more percussive and confined (easier for the audience to mimic) – Herbie’s the looser swinging melodic phrases full of slurs, chords and metric modulations challenging for even the highly-musical Melbourne audience to replicate.

Chick Corea live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Both in their mid-70’s, the chops of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea remain impeccable, superb to hear. Just to be in the audience and ponder the vast wealth of their combined musical experiences in our jazz history (well over a century), was awe-inspiring. Their long-standing connectivity in music and friendship evident in their banter, their playing and the looks and smiles exchanged between them, was a pleasure to witness.

Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea concert at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Before this show Herbie Hancock was one of only a few living artists left on my Live Music Bucket List. Hearing the sounds of his hands creating music right before my eyes was an experience for which I will definitely die much happier.

Herbie Hancock at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

If you didn’t make it to Herbie and Chick’s sell-out Melbourne shows, get a glimpse of the experience with footage here from their Brisbane show two days earlier- the first utilising synths- the second a snippet from Cantaloupe Island

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Then remind yourself here of just two of so many reasons Herbie Hancock deserves so much praise from Chick Corea, Beaver and everyone else…

Herbie Hancock in 1973…

‘Watermelon Man’ – Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters (1973)
Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters (1973)

Head Hunters (1973)

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Herbie Hancock in 2014, in collaboration with Flying Lotus…

‘Tesla’ – Flying Lotus (feat. Herbie Hancock) – You’re Dead
Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

You’re Dead! (2014)

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival Artists Who Followed

During ten festival days after opening night venues throughout Melbourne, including historical jazz club Bennetts Lane in its final days, hosted performances by hundreds of diverse, genre-bending jazz artists.

Eric Harland Voyager

Day two began with a free concert in Federation Square which gave folks in Melbourne a teeny taste of festival performances to come including The Bad Plus (U.S.A) – The Hoodangers (Melbourne) – and Eric Harland Voyager (U.S.A) whose musical skills and group cohesiveness seemed unaffected by their arrival to the gig fresh off the plane from the other side of the world.

Eric Harland live at Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Eric Harland

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Eric Harland Voyager live at Federation Square – with Walter Smith III (sax), Julian Lage (guitar), Harish Raghavan (double bass) and Taylor Eigsti (piano)…

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Richard Bona

The final Melbourne International Jazz Festival performance I can share the goodness of was the Richard Bona Quintet show at Coopers Malthouse Theatre.

I’d enjoyed Richard Bona’s recorded music on cd, seen online videos of his phenomenal virtuoso skills on bass, and recently spoken with him about the long-lasting memorable experience he hopes audiences will have at his shows. The actual live Richard Bona experience was another thing all together though – a reflection of all that and so much more.

Richard Bona concert - Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Richard Bona Quintet

As you’d expect from this world fusion artist, Richard Bona’s set was made up of diverse musical flavours from jazz through to funk, salsa and classical Indian. Many songs were performed by the full band, including Shiva Mantra (video below) and a tribute to his inspiration Jaco Pastorius in the form of Teen Town.  Others were performed by Richard Bona solo – a cappella or with a loop pedal – perfectly highlighting his phenomenal musicality as well as his angelic voice. Threading all those songs together were the very funny stories and anecdotes shared by Richard Bona – and all of it combined left the audience with wide smiles, gratitude and joy.

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Melbourne International Jazz Festival returns in May 2016 for another 11 days of musical goodness.

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Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! But Your Spirit Ain’t

“The first time you listen to You’re Dead! try to clear 30+ min of your super busy and important schedule and listen to the whole ride…”

Flying LotusFlying Lotus- Sep 19

Flying Lotus (aka Steven Elllison) posted that about 2 weeks before the official release of his new album.

Two weeks afterYou’re Dead! arrived into my hands I’m posting this to all people in the world who appreciate absolutely unique, innovative and exceptional music and artistry, and are as excited as me about the creation of jazz hip-hop fusion of the highest order in 2014…

“The first and every subsequent time you listen to You’re Dead! during the rest of this lifetime, clear 38+ mins of your busy, unimportant schedule, play your vinyl or cd through a good sound system, and enjoy the wild sensory ride that this incredible musical body of work takes you on in it’s entirety from tracks 1 through to 19…”

Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (2014)

This Flying Lotus ride takes us into the realms of death and the journey of the spirit in the afterlife. The message is clear: scary or not, death in this lifetime is coming for us all. But the spirit will live on forever after.

At different times throughout the album death is confusing, resisted, feared, wondered or laughed at, welcomed, defied, sought, accepted, surrendered to and embraced. That means sometimes this Flying Lotus ride sounds fun and playful, at other times uncomfortable, dark and chaotic.

“I can see the darkness in me and it’s quite amazing. Life and death is a mystery and I wanna taste it. Step inside my mind and you’ll find curiosity…”

(Kendrick Lamar on ‘Never Catch Me’)

“Bang bang blow your mind. Beat beat flatline. You gotta get yours, I been had mine…”

“I was live when I met you. Now it seems to upset you.”

Snoop Dogg and Captain Murphy (aka Flying Lotus) on ‘Dead Man’s Tetris’

“The days of men are coming to an end. So come with me…”

Flying Lotus on ‘Coronus The Terminator’

“Can you feel the walls are closing in? Closer to the end. Welcome to the descent. The descent, the descent, into madness. The descent…”

Thundercat on ‘Descent Into Madness’

“I know of a place inside my mind where I can fly. Take another pill. Take another pill.”

Captain Murphy on ‘The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep’

Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

Other times the ride is soft, spacious, clear and serene. One of those is in ‘The Protest’. This track marks the end of You’re Dead! and the start of the spirits’ journey through the afterlife when they gather in clarity, a knowing, an acceptance of (and hopefully in peace) that they, their influence and their love will live on forever and ever after.

The whole wild sensory ride comes via a rich and diverse musical tapestry made up of layers upon layers of weird, wonderful and surprising sounds that very few artists in the world could successfully weave together like Flying Lotus has done with You’re Dead!. You’ll need to set aside a lot of 38+ minute sessions during your lifetime just to absorb them all.

Some layers are vocal ones inspired by the music of Queen, sung or spoken by Steven Ellison himself (some through a toy), Niki Randa, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop DoggAngel Deradoorian, Arlene Deradoorian and Kimbra Johnson.

Others are recordings of shit-hot live instrumentation care of jazz hero Herbie Hancock on keys; Thundercat on bass and guitar, Kamasi Washington on saxophone; Brendon Small and Jeff Lynn on guitar; Gene Coye, Justin Brown, Ronald Bruner and Deantoni Parks on drums; Stephen BrunerBrandon Coleman and Taylor Graves on keys; Laura Darlington on flute; Andres Renteria on percussion; Miguel Atwood Ferguson and Taylor Cannizzaro on strings, and Flying Lotus on keys, percussion and bass.

Finally amongst the layers are the electronic beats and other kooky sampled sounds of Flying Lotus, many of them seemingly placed in the “wrong” but in fact the perfect places.

The whole of those layers is an exceptional, innovative, quality musical creation that sounds and feels like none other in this world.

Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

Check out some tracks from the album here via dirty, compressed mp3. My usual preachings about the importance of supporting artists financially and the evils of mp3s in the world, apply many times over with this here Flying Lotus album and it’s many beautiful nuances of sound. You’re Dead! is a ‘must-have-and-treasure-on-vinyl-or-at-least-cd’ in your collection for the rest of your lifetime, and the collection of the lucky person who gets your music collection with FlyLo included, after you’re dead. Get it from your local independent record store if you can – all good ones should have it.

Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (2014)

Flying Lotus – ‘Dead Man’s Tetris’ (feat. Snoop Dogg & Captain Murphy)

a playful Tetris death ride, hip-hop style…

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Flying Lotus – ‘Coronus The Terminator’ 

what I hope death sounds and feels like…

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Flying Lotus – ‘Moment of Hesitation’ (feat. Herbie Hancock)

aaahhh, dear Herbie…

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If when I get to the afterlife it turns out to sound like You’re Dead! does, at least my spirit will be a musically satisfied one.  Won’t yours?

If it sounds different, this Flying Lotus creation has undoubtedly made a lot of people’s lives richer for the experience in this lifetime. Are you one of them?

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Flying Lotus: Coronus, The Terminator

The new Flying Lotus album drops on October 7th. After hearing the latest teaser track from it, ‘Coronus, The Terminator’, You’re Dead! has for me become the most anticipated new album music release in a very, very long time. I am absolutely bursting to get a hard copy of this album into my hands and playing through my speakers.

Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (2014)

Why?  Because when I hear this ethereal piece of brilliant music artistry by Flying Lotus and his collaborators, I feel everything moving inside of me.  It affects me deeply – and that’s the very best music in the world.

Why else? Because You’re Dead! not only features FlyLo’s fellow Californian artists Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Niki Randa singing vocals on Coronus, The Terminator; but also one of the most special artists in the whole of our music history –  jazz fusion pioneer Herbie Hancock. I’d say Flying Lotus and Herbie Hancock making fusion music together is a collaboration of epic proportions.

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock
photo ℅ minglecity.com

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus
photo ℅ heartymagazine.com

Reactions to Coronus, The Terminator by Soundcloud listeners sum up this music  ever-so-perfectly really…

what the fuckkkkkkk          holy shit    

dammnnnn          JEEEEESUS CHRIST!!!          lawd have mercy

Getting chills, damn          Goosebumps, Goosebumps all around!

crazy shit. next level shit          fuckin phenomenal          absolute perfection

out of this world          sweet salvation          enlightenment through sound

you are a damn genius          one of the cleanest fucking mixes ive ever heard

you cannot be human

if this is what dying sounds like then i look forward to it

Hear Coronus, The Terminator yourself and you’ll probably be nodding in agreement with all of the above reactions. Check it out on Soundcloud here…

So no doubt after hearing it, you’ll agree with these other Soundcloud comments too…

so fucking excited for october

SO happy about this… very glad I pre-ordered 😉

I’m hella pumped to get this on vinyl.

Yes appreciators of good sound quality and hold-in-your-hands-albums, Flying Lotus is of course giving us You’re Dead! on sweet vinyl and cd.  You can pre-order it and collect the mail excitedly each day because that could be the day the postman or woman delivers your copy of this incredible piece of music artistry.

When you get it, remember these Flying Lotus words about You’re Dead!

“the first time you listen to You’re Dead! try to clear 30+ min of your super busy and important schedule and listen to the whole ride”

Until then, remind yourself of the great goodness of Herbie Hancock’s music with this sample track (shitty mp3 only – this is a must-have-album on sweet vinyl or cd) from his 1973 groundbreaking album Head Hunters

Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters (1973)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters (1973)

‘Chameleon’ – Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters (1973)

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