On a trip through Western Europe promoting their duo album "1+1"
(Verve), Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter looked comfortable with the
designer-clad luncheon crowd in the Ritz Hotel. The same room in which
Princesse Diana and Marcel Proust once gossiped, a century apart..
Hancock and Shorter were laughing more and louder than the
other people doing lunch in there. Uncomprehending, the Fashion Editor
of the International Herald Tribune looked their way. Shorter was
really proud of his Versace shirt.
power is behind the scenes and based on articulation and aspect more
than impulse or quantity. Hancock led the dance. Not that Hancock is
necessarily the reverse, but amplitude counts a lot with him. It is
doubtful that their duo-casting had required a verbal or even a
conscious decision. It is down-home yin and yang. They are both
Asked to explain the album, Shorter
replied: "We just went in and did it." Sounds simple.
writes with simplicity," Hancock was expansive. "But there's
always that spice of his in the voicings he chooses. And he writes
them in. . ." He stopped for emphasis: ". . . in pen. Not
On the piano part, Shorter writes the
exact notes he wants played rather than the habitual permissive
shorthand chord symbols. "Most piano players reduce the written
chords to symbols," Hancock explained. "They think this
gives them more freedom. And most of the time it does. But I learned
back in 1967 when we were doing 'Nefertiti' with Miles."
turned to Shorter. "Remember?" Hancock continued: "I
learned that I'd better pay attention to Wayne's exact notes. There's
more to Wayne than meets the eye."
enigmatic, like a private eye weighing elusive clues: "I learned
that there's always something in there I have to learn. Then little by
little I move away from what he's written. But rather than change a
whole lot of notes, I use my touch on the instrument as my entry.
Because there's really enough freedom in there already.
picked it up seamlessly: "I'll shift the weight of the notes
sometimes. The way the ninth chords move, for example. I call it my
'nightclub' sound."His voice resembled the soft, finely woven
texture of his tenor saxophone tone. The tinkle of glasses and cutlery
in the room was growing louder, the voices more alcoholic. Shorter was
fading off-mike as he began to address the dressing of his salad.
Had he said "nightclub" or "ninth-club?"
Hancock laughed and took another sip of wine. "That sounds like
something Wayne would say. That was a Waynism." They laughed in
tandem. He turned to Shorter: "You mean that Satie kind of thing?"
Shorter nodded. Words were not necessary. There is great complicity
You should know that Shorter had recently lost his wife - they
had been extremely close - on TWA Flight 800 from New York to Paris.
Bereavement still weighed on him. It was almost literally squashing
him down into his chair.
Hancock and Shorter were at the
creative center of the 1970s Miles Davis Quintet in which - with Ron
Carter, bass, and the late drummer Tony Williams - they definitively
expanded the harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary of jazz. Modern jazz
harmony today sounds like their younger brother.
feel as though they are running into themselves, catching up with
themselves as it were, around every corner. You wonder if that bothers
them and if so what do they do about it.
to the moment," Hancock replied. "We try to set up external
things to do, so that we can get an honest connection between the two
of us and the music in the present tense."
The album was
recorded six hours a day seven days in a row in Hancock's home studio,
so he could play his own beloved Hamburg Steinway piano.
one day we didn't play anything at all," Shorter said. "We
were still figuring things out. And one day we were tired. So I said,
'Let's go and get some rest.''' Shorter is a stickler.
suddenly remembered that he "should be promoting" his recent
appointment as artistic director of a new jazz program "under the
umbrella of the Thelonious Monk Institute in Los Angeles," where
he and Shorter both live. "We're not trying to copy Lincoln
Center," he emphasized. "I'm not the focus. It's not going
to be a platform for me in any way. I'm into a lot of projects right
Next month, Hancock's all-star band with Michael
Brecker, John Scofield, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette and Don Alias
would play nine festivals in a row; take a day off and then do another
nine. Generally he avoids touring that hard, but the group is "kind
of expensive and that's the only way to make the bottom line work."
that sort of situation, he prefers to play the same set of tunes in
the same order every night because it "eliminates one of the
"There are more constants," added
"We can concentrate on . . ."
Hancock did not have the space to finish.
Shorter wore a
mischievous grin: "Concentrate on Constance." Whatever that
". . . on the music." Hancock appeared to be
abashed to find himself sounding so serious.
interruption by a waiter pouring wine, Hancock went on to explain that
concentrating on the music involves first and foremost being
democratic: "This is one value of jazz beyond the music itself."
share ideas and listen to each other." Shorter followed up, being
sure to explain: "You have to be democratic or you can't play the
music. Otherwise it will end up like what has been going on in Lincoln
Did he mean to be controversial about the
controversial politics of Wynton Marsalis, who was directing the
Lincoln Center jazz program, or what? Remember, Hancock had already
disassociated himself from that program while describing his own in
LA. What was being implied here?
Asked to explain, Shorter
said: "I only mean that otherwise it's a dead-end street.
Cul-de-sac." Now he addressed his dessert.