Imagine being entertained by a revolving house band that includes Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Marcus Miller, Terri Lyne Carrington, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Corinne Bailey Rae. Those were just a few of the jazz talents who played to a backyard crowd of donors at the “Zero Gravity Live” event Sunday night at the Bel Air home of Dr. Frank and Shelley Litvack.
The affair — a kind of exclusive, high-end crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the documentary in the making “Wayne Shorter: Zero Gravity” via fiscal sponsor, the non-profit Pasadena Arts Council — drew approximately 170 patrons of the arts who pledged $250,000-$300,000 in donations to finish the movie, from which interviews and performance clips were shown as part of the dinner/program.
The endeavor could serve as a new model for financing movies, that is if your subject inspires the kind of admiration and support that Shorter enjoys. And no doubt the legendary reedman lent his own rolodex to attract potential donors.
Dorsay Alavi, the director/exec producer of the documentary, says she is still about $500,000 short of her goal to finish the movie, with a budget of roughly $1 million dollars. She had already raised $65,000 via crowdfunding platform Pledge Music. For Sunday night’s effort, the Herb Alpert Foundation ($150,000) and Carlos Santana ($50,000) were among the biggest donors.
The event amounted to a love fest for the musician/composer who has thrived as a solo artist for almost five decades, and was a key member of Miles Davis’ second great quintet and co-founder of Weather Report. Anybody who has seen Shorter, 81, or Hancock (74), for that matter, perform live over the past year or so, knows both musicians are still operating at peak levels. Those who shelled out more than $1,200 apiece ($2,000 for a VIP pre-show reception) for the event were treated to a Hancock solo that kicked off the affair, as well as a Hancock/Shorter duet — a kind of call-and-response, telepathic musical exchange that was breathtaking to behold. That they’ve known each other for 50 years certainly must factor into their simpatico improvisational dynamic.
Other highlights included the Milton Nascimento composition “Encontros e Despedidas,” sung in lilting Portuguese by Spalding, and Joni Mitchell’s “River,” with undulating vocals by Rae, and Hancock, Shorter, Carrington and Spalding providing superstar support.
Mitchell, who was expected to attend, was the most conspicuous no-show, a development attributed to health reasons.
But others present who reveled in all the goodwill included Alavi; Sinbad, who MC’d the event; indie producer/rep Jonathan Dana, who is a consulting producer on the doc; Don Was, president of Blue Note, Shorter’s longtime label; filmmaker Taylor Hackford; actors Don Cheadle and Alfre Woodard; Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry; music producer David Foster; Tom Carter, president of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz; and retired Laker Norm Nixon, among others.