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Ann Arbor History: Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea’s Hill Auditorium Reunion

By Marissa Solomon

If you’re a jazz lover, chances are you’re just as excited as we are to see jazz legend Chick Corea with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on March 31, 2018.

January 26, 1978 concert poster found in Lee Berry's office.

January 26, 1978 concert poster found in Lee Berry’s office.

But, did you know that this upcoming performance won’t be the first time that the master pianist will be in Ann Arbor? In 1978, jazz legends Chick Corea  and Herbie Hancock were brought to Ann Arbor by Eclipse Jazz, a University of Michigan student group that existed from 1975 to 1987. Eclipse brought world-class jazz musicians to Ann Arbor for concerts, lectures, and workshops, and presented such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Sun Ra, Oscar Peterson, Mary Lou Williams, Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

We asked Lee Berry, former director of Eclipse Jazz and current Chief Development Officer at the Michigan Theater, to tell us all about the epic concert.

Hancock and Corea’s first show together at Hill Auditorium was scheduled for January 26, 1978, a date that might ring some bells for those who were university students during this time, because it was also known as the Great Blizzard of 1978. The University shut down due to snow that day.

Says Berry, “I think we learned that school was being cancelled, and then they called and said that [Herbie and Chick] couldn’t get out of New York.” The only reschedule date that worked for the musicians, Eclipse, and Hill Auditorium was February 26, 1978. The sold-out performance was to occur that day during the day time. Still, most of the 4177 ticket holders showed up, and, as Berry puts it, “it was a beautiful, beautiful show.”

220px-Hancock_Corea_EveningThe encore of that Hill Auditorium performance is side four of An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert, an album that Berry describes as a departure from the electric keyboard and fusion style of jazz that Corea and Hancock were known for before that album, and as a return to the acoustic piano and older, more collaborative style of playing that is the kind of jazz that has survived and is still thriving today.  The recording, featuring two jazz greats changing the course of jazz’s future, was a moment in history. As Berry remembers, “Not too long after is when Wynton [Marsalis] came out, maybe ’81, and it was like old-school was back. This was kind of like a link between those two periods.”

Updated 6/5/2017

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marissa Solomon is a marketing intern at UMS. She is also a senior at the University of Michigan, studying Public Policy. In her free time she enjoys watching dance and comedy videos on YouTube, vegan baking, and trying to write funny tweets.

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