It's tough to choose just one performer who was the main attraction at this weekend's A Great Night In Harlem event but Herbie Hancock was near the top. The legendary pianist was given the lifetime achievement award from the Jazz Foundation of America during its annual benefit concert at the historic Apollo Theater on October on Friday (from NOLA.com).
Bruce Willis was the interesting choice of presenter who introduced Hancock at the ceremony but the most touching words came from Joey Alexander, an 11 year-old piano prodigy who has gathered attention in recent years.
"When I was eight years old you heard me playing," Alexander told his icon. "You told me that you believed in me and that was the day I decided to dedicate my childhood to jazz." The young performer than gave his own rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight." Hancock was impressed. "Wasn't it amazing?" he told the crowd. "He's taken my job away from me."
The highlight of the night was Hancock performing with the band from Mwandishi, a jazz-fusion album released by Hancock during 1971, cited by jazz experts as groundbreaking in its blend of styles (something Hancock would do for his entire career).
The other primary honoree of the night was trumpeter Clark Terry, a 93 year-old icon of the bebop scene. Terry's name has once again come to prominence thanks to a documentary focusing on his relationship with Justin Kauflin, a blind pianist whom has come under his wing. Keep On Keepin' On is co-produced by Quincy Jones, another musician who once went to Terry for music lessons.
"During the course of that mentorship, Clark had both legs amputated with diabetes and his spirit is higher than ever," Jones said, in attendance at A Great Night in Harlem. "It's so powerful it makes you cry every time you see it."