When jazz and classical piano worlds collide—with surprising success
At first glance, the second of Lang Lang’s two Ravinia concerts appeared as the dessert to Sunday’s main course, which had featured Prokofiev’s Third and a reunion with the pianist’s long-time mentor Christoph Eschenbach—a partnership famously born ten years ago this summer on the same pavilion stage.
Tuesday’s concert, after all, was just another cross-genre pairing of two iconic pianists working in different worlds looking to meet halfway. Yet there must have been many who were happily surprised to hear the Chinese pianist and jazz legend Herbie Hancock yield results that far exceeded a couple hours of breezy easy listening.
The alliance works because the two share more qualities than is initially apparent. First, both artists don’t discount the elements of fashion and style, and Hancock’s shades and striking indigo suit seemed a nice companion to Lang Lang’s glamtastic waxed hair and dapper black two-piece. Secondly, Hancock’s career launched after he played the Mozart Concerto No. 5 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when he was only 11. Lang Lang similarly found stardom when he performed the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto with the CSO in 1999. It was clear Chicago-native Hancock was speaking for the two of them when he said, “It’s good to be home.”