1 + 1 (Verve)

Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter

By Bob Bahr

Call it chamber jazz music. But also call it beautiful, engaging and restful.

These players are famous -- nay, hallowed -- for both their playing and their compositional skills. They utilize both talents to wonderful effect on1 + 1, an album of simply soprano sax (Shorter) and Steinway piano (Hancock) that almost lives up to its hype.

Why just almost? Consider these words, from the liner notes: "This is a monumental, historic collaboration -- but these words insufficiently describe the daring performances by Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter which have been captured here. This is the evanescent made eternal."

Gracious, the jazz industry hype machine can be hard to take sometimes. But if the bombastic quote above snares in one more listener, it's justified. This album features several priceless cuts that should be heard.

Two Wayne Shorter tunes -- "Meridianne -- A Wood Sylph" and "Aung San Suu Kyi" -- open the album with amazing beauty and grace. Hancock's "Sonrisa" strikes a cerebral note, then two tunes meander and stretch the duo setting before "Joanna's Theme" once again aims for and duly strikes the heart of the listener. Few players can create such an emotional mood without sacrificing some of their technical execution; Wayne Shorter can tear your heart out and dazzle your ears simultaneously. Hancock plays behind Shorter's solo lines in a unique way that heightens Shorter's climactic passages and yet remains sparse, low-key and playful.

The listener is reminded of Shorter's fine albumNative Dancer , which featured Hancock, even before the two tunes from that album are revisited here ("Joanna's Theme" and "Diana"). But whereas that album was flavored by Latin American percussion and vocals,1 + 1 is about the connection between these two jazz musicians and the intensity they generate together.

The centerpiece of the album may be "Visitor from Somewhere," a nine-minute song that gets handed back and forth between the two musicians in a seamless, elegant fashion, with many passages featuring an equal collaboration between the two. Aside from being quite lyrical, it's an ideal opportunity to hear the way Hancock and Shorter listen to and musically interact with other jazz musicians. "Hale-Bopp, Hip-Hop" is evidently a bit of jamming that was captured on tape. The nearly two minute song has Hancock repeating an aggressive, bluesy figure while Shorter converses above him on soprano. It's a light-hearted coda for an album of serene beauty, a mild antidote for the faint feel of studied seriousness present on a few tunes.

southern gospel, no depression, sheer delight