Monday, April 03, 2006

Herbie Hancock’s Distribution Possibilities

On March 16th, we saw a beautiful concert tribute to Toots Thielemans at Carnegie Hall. To set the tone, the concert opened with Thielemans seated on-stage as Herbie Hancock reminisced and played for him. It was an intimate performance, the sort one hopes the makers of the soon to debut documentary Herbie Hancock: Possibilities were able to capture. (As an aside, the concert was a tribute to a Belgian musician, featuring American, Cuban, and Brazilian artists, sponsored by a Japanese company. Why is globalization such an evil thing again?)

Hancock’s explosively successful Head Hunters-era fusion recordings were quite controversial in the jazz community when first released. Now Hancock finds himself involved in an industry controversy through the release of this documentary. Opening April 14th at the Quad Theater in New York, and the Grande 4 in Los Angeles, Possibilities will actually drop on DVD April 18th, 4 days later. This narrow window of theatrical exclusivity does not sit well with distributors. Magnolia Pictures used a similar strategy with Indie film Bubble, the success of which depends on who you ask, Magnolia or the Exhibitors Association.

Most people don’t really have a dog in this fight, but as consumers we get to pick the winner. Given the increasing DVD domination of American leisure time, I suspect Magnolia is onto something. In this instance, Possibilities documents the recording of the recent Hancock CD of the same title. In the tradition of Ray Charles Genius Loves Company, Hancock becomes the venerated as the bright lights of the contemporary music scene perform duets with the master. While not as sublime as Hancock’s stage time with Thielemans, seeing a jazz master on the big screen, even with light weight pop figures like Christina Aguilera, is an appealing proposition. If time permits, I’ll try to catch it at the Quad. If not, I’ll check out the DVD, the week after.