A few years ago, on a visit to the University of Toronto Faculty of Music (my alma mater), I swung by the jazz bulletin board on the main floor to see what was happening jazz-wise at the faculty. On the board was an open letter of sorts, written by one of the faculty members, and addressed to students of the jazz program. The letter was posted shortly after the death of a major jazz icon (I forget which) and was encouraging (imploring?) the students to be sure to see living legends in action before it was too late.
I was reminded of that appeal as I sat in the audience at Massey Hall this past Tuesday night for the concert featuring the duo (duelling?) of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.
I don't want to overstate or exaggerate, but something in the air changed as soon as they walked on stage. Even before they played a note, it seemed as though everyone in the room understood they were in the presence of greatness. The artists were given a standing ovation before the concert even started. Hearing them play was an absolute joy; but so was listening to their stories and ruminations, and observing their interaction. They played well-known standards and pure improvisations, and I was in awe at how easily each pianist flew around his piano. Their mastery of the instrument and musicality came as no surprise; but no recording can compare to experiencing their artistry in person.
I admit that I have attended comparatively few concerts at large venues like Massey Hall. There are a variety of reasons; but the idea that "I'll catch them next time" certainly comes into play. The Lincoln Centre comes through every year or two; so does Pat Metheny and a slew of other acts. Except one day, they won't. Maybe they'll take some time off to work on a new project, or health issues will keep them off the road. Or worse. And then that feeling will hit - "I can't believe I didn't go when I had the chance." I saw Dizzy and Ella towards the end; but I never got to see Miles. (I had tickets, but the show was cancelled and he passed away shortly after.) And the list goes on.
Balancing finances and schedule can make committing to a bigger ticket item difficult. One can't really flake out on a night at Massey Hall and, typically, a concert featuring a jazz icon can't really be a last-minute decision (Tuesday's show was sold out well in advance). But being in the audience on Tuesday is a memory I'll keep with me for a long time. To hear these two masters demonstrate why, exactly, they are masters; to go along on their musical adventure - that opportunity far outweighed any reason I could think of to not be there.
So - whether it's at the upcoming Festival or throughout the year (and, in case you haven't heard, we announced our lineup on Tuesday!), if you've got the means and opportunity to see a legendary musician in action, do it. Be there. There's nothing like live music, and there's especial nothing like live music played exceptionally well.
What legends are you glad to have seen live?