Gustavo Dudamel, Herbie Hancock hit L.A. Phil's 'Blue' gala
The neon sign, "Rhapsody in Blue," marked the entrance to the tent on Grand Avenue, where a fundraising gala followed the Los Angeles Philharmonic's season-opening all-Gershwin concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Tuesday's after-concert party attracted actors William Shatner and Don Johnson, music legends John Williams, Quincy Jones and David Foster, and more than 600 other guests.
In keeping with a period theme, the tent had been transformed into a 1930s supper club with draped ceilings, damask walls, banquettes, ostrich feathers and vintage photos of movie idols. In a flashback to earlier days, there were matches and cigarettes on the tables, although for the smoke-free 21st century, the cigarettes were made of candy.
Throughout the evening, well-wishers swarmed the man-of-the-moment Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the evening's George Gershwin classics, from the moment he arrived with his wife Eloisa Maturén.
"I really love this music," Dudamel said. "It's so natural. It's so free and it's so fun to play. I was looking forward for many years to conducting Gershwin." And the L.A. Phil's music director indeed meant many years, saying, "I was conducting [Gershwin] as a kid in my house," naming as his then-favorite piece "An American In Paris," which the Phil also performed Tuesday.
At 7-feet-2, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was easiest to spot. "I've known Herbie Hancock since high school," he said.
During the concert, Hancock dedicated his first selection, "Embraceable You," to his wife.
"I was shocked," said Gigi Hancock. "It came as a complete surprise."
According to Herbie Hancock, the Philharmonic's creative chair for jazz, "I thought about it yesterday. Yesterday was her birthday, but my focus then was on doing ['Rhapsody in Blue']."
Certainly that focus paid off, as the audience rewarded the performance with a standing ovation.
Proving the entire night a success, gala co-chair David Bohnett announced $3.4 million in proceeds, saying, "This money makes a major positive impact on our ability to continue a tradition of innovation and excellence in musical programming and further support our education objectives in our social responsibility to our community."
Co-chair Joan Hotchkis followed, thanking everyone for their support, singling out Herbie Hancock, L.A. Phil President Deborah Borda and "our wonderful conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who gave us the best concert possible."
Photos: Eloisa Maturén and her husband, Gustavo Dudamel, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Herbie Hancock, above, and dancers at the gala. All photos by Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times
Gustavo Dudamel and his wife, Eloisa Maturén.