Life, Long, Friends
Written by Stephanie Renee on April 12, 2015
When The Kimmel Center announced its 2014-15 performance season, there was plenty of reason to be excited if you are an enthusiastic patron of the arts, as I am. But some of their lineup late additions were equally stunning, especially when they scored a stop on the Herbie Hancock/Chick Corea tour. No orchestra, no vocalists, no otherwise pleasant artsy distractions. Just two master musicians, a couple of grand pianos, and matching synth set-ups. Along with half a century of memories and catalog to explore.
The length and depth of these geniuses’ friendship is a marvel to me. I came of age in the Golden Era of Hiphop and 90s R&B boy/girl groups. Lots of fun content was released during this time, but you’d be hard-pressed to name even a handful of these ensembles or production partnerships that are still viable and functioning today. Life’s evolution, and the pursuit of fame and cash, can wreak havoc on goodwill between men and women. So, to see these elder gentlemen–who have weathered the music industry’s tumult from bebop through the modern era–still composing, producing, playing, touring and laughing together is downright miraculous.
Nothing about their backgrounds would lead you to assume they’d form such a lasting connection. Herbie’s a Black Chicagoan, a Buddhist, a guy who has admitted an almost cliché dip into the crack epidemic of the 80s and survived it, losing nothing in his playing and collaborative abilities. Armando “Chick” Corea is half Italian/half Spanish born in a Boston suburb, a Scientologist, and a truly unconventional tinkler of the ivories and strummer of the piano’s internal strings. Yet, both musicians have studied under and played with Miles and Mongo. They’ve won an unbelievable number of awards and accolades. Produced a surreal number of albums and contributing compositions. Everything in their resumes makes you think competitor or rival. But together, on recordings or on stage, the mutual respect, active listening, and easy laughter between them is downright extraordinary. Add to that the 50 years that they’ve known each other and worked together, and I don’t know that there is any creative parallel.
In a world where there is such tangible disconnect, such blatant disregard for the beauty and sanctity of each life, and a seething selfishness that lends itself to widespread suffering, we have a lot to learn from these brothers. Being awed by their creative abilities is commonplace. Having a favorite tune that uplifts and delights us is guaranteed. But when the late Rodney King asked, “Can’t we all just get along?”, I doubt he realized how far from camaraderie we’d remain here in 2015. As the sociopolitical gaps persist or even widen, let us take notable solace in those who maintain and enhance their humanity with their unwavering belief in each other.