Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: Liza

It’s hard for me pick between “Liza” and “Someday My Prince Will Come” on this record, but I will pick “Liza.” Herbie is always so open to playing with other people in different situations. One challenge of duo piano playing is that if either of the pianists takes up too much space, it doesn’t give room to the other person. It’s a real test of how interactive you can be. Yet, on the other hand, the more you go for it in terms of setting up something that the other pianist has to react to, then the more the music can go in different places. I remember seeing Herbie and Chick play live at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia, when they came out on tour. It was very strange, because a lot of the crowd showed up expecting a fusion concert from the advertising, and when two guys came out and just played acoustic piano, there was a lot of stirring—they weren’t so happy with it. But I was thrilled, because I couldn’t believe they were just playing standards—and really playing their asses off! I also remember that Herbie and Chick played on a local TV show in Philadelphia called The Mike Douglas Show to promote their gig. Mike Douglas was a sort of crooner who had a talk show but it was an incredible show—you can see great videos of Sly Stone and Muhammad Ali on his show. He would invite Yoko Ono and John Lennon. People would come down to Philadelphia for a week, and he would let them dominate the show. Anyway, Herbie and Chick went on the show and accompanied him on “I’m Beginning To See The Light” and then each took an incredible solo. He just let them play and the music went so many places. That’s what happens on this song—at first they’re playing very impressionistically, in a free rubato style, where there’s not really a lot of time; then they start swinging, and accompany each other in a more straight-ahead feel; and then they start trading, and the trades get more and more outrageous in how far they’re taking it out. Herbie would play something that almost recalled a stride thing, Chick would answer with something stride and then play some really out stuff, then Herbie would answer with out stuff. To see how two people with different styles, both virtuosos, were able to accompany and complement and push each other, and also how hard they were listening to each other, made a strong impression on me as a pianist, game me a real feeling of joy and uplift. One of the attractive things about Herbie is the lack of what I guess you could call ego—showing off virtuosity for its own sake. He’s really in the music all the time. I think it’s great playing by him as well as by Chick. Both Chick and Herbie have distinctive solo styles, and they’re both pushing each other. They both have enormous range, not just as ensemble players, but also as soloists. It’s an obscure record in Herbie’s total discography. But it’s stuck with me, and I’ve listened to it a lot.

March 20, 2009 · 0 comments


Chick Webb: Liza

Jazz fans all know Ella Fitzgerald's hit recording of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" -- but how many have checked out this version of "Liza" on the flip side of the 78? Yet you would need to look far and wide to find a better exhibition of Swing Era drumming. Webb drives the band with a double dose of what Alan Greenspan might call "irrational exuberance." But you can't resist this beat -- no wonder the dancers stomped so hard at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom, where Webb & Co. presided over the spirited proceedings. Listen and enjoy the band that defeated the Benny Goodman ensemble, the most famous jazz group of the age, at a heated Harlem battle a few months before this session. Webb would be dead, at age 30, before the close of the decade, but this track serves notice that he was one of the finest talents the jazz world has produced.

May 17, 2008 · 0 comments


Paul Motian: Liza

Whether recording classic tracks with Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett in the 1960s or leading one of his own Manhattan-based groups at the Village Vanguard in 2007, Paul Motian has been successfully performing as a jazz drummer for over fifty years. His trademark is balancing traditional swing patterns with freer, looser rhythms. While he certainly can and often does play traditional swing patterns, Motian constantly experiments with his time patterns, often leaving space in order to “poke” back in at his bandmates in musical conversation. Here Motian plays Chick Webb’s famous drum feature “Liza” with post-bop twists and turns.

October 27, 2007 · 0 comments


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