The Future 2 Future DVD- A Feature 4 Feature MVD (Most Valuable Document)
“ One screening of this DVD causes anticipation for the chance for this band to reach its utmost potential over a deservedly full lifespan - not unlike some of Herbie's, and jazz's, best groups. ”
What makes this, a straight performance video (with no videos save a bonus of the classic "Rockit" clip) taken from a single night's performance at LA's Knitting Factory, so darn thrill-inducing? Many things-let's start with the obvious. The mix was closely collaborated on by Herbie himself at Skywalker Ranch, which is certainly-ahem -good enough for me. Suffice to say it sounds as good as anything I've heard emanating from my so-called home theater system, ever. Take that from whence it comes, an owner of a yeoman system with some decent mid-priced speakers and a subwoofer. Yes, I probably heard this one through a system resembling yours, not that of a critic for one of those equipment manuals/magazines. Then, we have the very simple, yet undeniably fascinating, multi-angle option. That is, Herbie and his production company took that little button-the one marked "angle"- on your DVD remote very seriously. Called MX Multiangle, it's a proprietary technology of MX Entertainment , the outfit that shot the event with eight Digital Betacam cameras. It shows picture-in-picture previews of the different video streams when content choice is available. It's not there all the time, but quite often (for 30 of the concert's 100 minutes), and just about every time someone takes a solo or starts interacting pretty heavily in duo or trio subsets of the band, we get to check out what's going from a different, and oft-times better perspective.
But I'd say the single thing that makes this DVD an MVP starts from it's very basis; that is, its importance as a document. See, you may have missed the European, American, Korean or Japanese F2F road show in 2001 or 2002, or even its somewhat underreported chronicles in the jazz media, but the star of the proceedings here is less Herbie himself than the entity that organically explored and forwardly morphed his original vision-his nothing-short-of-incredible band. Herbie perceptibly ruminated deeply and chose wisely here, selecting established team players who not coincidentally, have established themselves as leaders - Wallace Roney on trumpet, Terry Lyne Carrington on drumkit and vocals, Matt Garrison on electric and acoustic, but amplified, bass, Darrell Diaz on keyboards, and DJ Disk on the (single) wheel of steel. Now, that's an electric band, people, and the way this crew got inside the raw material that Herbie and Future Shock era- cohort Bill Laswell provided with the F2F cd is admirably, very earthily, alchemistic. The rhythm section goes a long way toward this important change in feel -with programmed or sampled beats replaced by Carrington's human, sometimes machine-emulating but always phat and elastic grooves, and synth, sampled-sequenced or slick-studio bass swapped out in favor of Garrison's technically powered, yet instinct-driven and always soulfully-heartfelt lines.
Wisely, the program grants no overt attention to the use of the sound-triggered, computer-generated graphics flashing behind Carrington for the duration of the gig and simply allows you to digest them in ambient fashion as an audience member would (but dig that big purple psychedelic peace flower near the end of "Butterfly"!). The Dolby 5.1 surround sound is something of an approximation of the tour's state-of-the art, surround-sound P.A., which supplemented the live mix with added depth, dimension and space. I had the good fortune of catching this unit on successive nights in March of 2002 in Burlington, VT and Boston, and found that summoning the courage to step to the center of the floor with the young, gyrating audience proved well-worth it - this was the best place to hear the mix in Boston especially, easily providing the highest definition to decibel ratio of any show I've ever attended. Remember that Mr. Hancock studied electronic engineering prior to music in college, so a true interest in the technology spurs his continuing endeavors as one of the music's innovative tinkerers.
Is there any living legend more qualified and justified to pose the question, as he does on this disc and at the live shows, ''We're in a new millennium, so where's the new music?'' Over the course of the set, leader and band go a long way to put the music where Herbie's mouth is, to wit:
"In the past, I was thinking in terms of music and effects. Now I'm thinking of the creation of new doorways for the music of the new millennium. I'm encouraging other musicians and people in general to not be afraid to take risks. When starting out with Head Hunters, I was much more in the tunnel of being a musician. Now I'm outside of it; I'm a human being, and what I do is play music. There's a big difference. It does relate to the old fusion mentality, but it's not the same."
Herbie uses poetry and spoken word throughout the program, a chore that fell more fully to him after DJ Rob Swift departed the tour. DJ Disk , a.k.a. Luis Quintanilla, another Laswell collaborator (of late, with Tabla Beat Science) and one of the original Invisible Skratch Picklz crew, is on hand with his single turntable, amazing left hand, and sound manipulating devices, functioning as de facto percussionist or synthesist. For evidence of this, direct your ears toward him throughout "The Essence", especially in consort with Garrison's subsonica, for constant contributions- all of them seamlessly executed, tasteful, and enriching to the soundscape. As demonstrated on "This is DJ Disk", he also functions as an unabashedly sick turntablist, in consort with Garrison and Carrington as they put their wicked acoustic root down. Safe to say scratchologists will be digging MX's overhead camera shot and the single frame option on the remote to slow Disk's blur down to a respectable and coppable speed. He even trades eights with Hancock's Steinway and engages in a bit of a scratch-off with Herbie (who uses one of those cd scratching devices). Skeptics on the DJ/Jazz tip would do well to remember that Herbie brought the DJ to jazz with "Rockit", which is included and done to death herein.
Roney , tagged as a Miles protégé by no less than Miles himself, proves astoundingly capable of evoking electric-period Davis, with an extra dose of chops. For evidence of his way with electrified trumpet, check out his performance on "Chameleon", with atmospherics yielding to cascading sheets of sound. Compare this with the nimble, precise, more straight ahead ride, and sound, on Dolphin Dance, wherein the Milesian link is all but indiscernible. Wallace proves throughout that he's one of the top handful of jazz trumpeters on the planet, and that he is one of the jazz world's premier soloists
Speaking of technique, how in the world is Matt Garrison going to possibly expand upon his astounding abilities as a soloist, brought to bear here most conspicuously on "Virtual Hornets"? While, it seems, using every filament of every muscle of every finger on each hand, Garrison channels the spirit and technique of Jaco, McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia as he extends the boundaries of the instrument with a fluid amalgam of completely unique phraseology. Herbie himself posits an answer to the question during the added-content segment (in affirmation of the talents and unique contributions of each band member, Herbie shortly ruminates on each while showcasing respective solo spots), which emphasizes Garrison's contributions as an amazingly intuitive groover and helmsman. For an example of this, check out the bounce in the bass ostinato lock-up with the drums at the end of "Dolphin Dance" or the subtleties of what he does with Herbie's classic floater, "Butterfly".
Now to Ms. Carrington who displays a versatile command of ultra-modern and traditional drum styles throughout, as well as contributing some surprisingly strong vocal work on "Kebero" and "The Essence"- drumming diva indeed. As Herbie says during her featurette, she's a pro through and through, but I feel compelled to relate that she manages to convey more than her fair share of sensual heat through this medium, mostly through her palpable, sometimes tribal, intensity. The lady has a way of generating her own space in the groove, not easily done in a unit this cohesive, and I find my eyes and ears training on her, especially whenever the music takes a turn. Her performance on "Tony Williams" does the departed maestro proud, and when Herbie adds the conjunctive "or daughter" to the subject "son" during the second verse of the magnanimous poetry acknowledging Tony's place at the pinnacle of the drumming world, it's a fitting affirmation of her dedication and talent.
It would be easy to overlook Darrell Diaz , and as musical director, this may in fact be part of his game plan, as he provides much of the electronic groundwork which Herbie soars over in straight-ahead, avant, lyrical, or atmospheric fashion. Herbie took the giant step of securing a Steinway grand for every stop on the tour, but the overall effect of the performance, of which his acoustic pianisms play such a large part, is surely electronic. Looking for harmonic invention, erudite sophistication, motific development and straight-up chops? Remember, Mr. Hancock recently proved he remains grammy-worthy as a pure soloist on the acoustic instrument (for "My Ship" on last year's Directions in Music ) and so he does, at sweet length, on every tune. That said, it's got to be quite the compliment that the master himself relinquishes the floor to Diaz for all of the set's work on one of his signature axes, the Fender Rhodes. Look for Diaz cutting loose on lead synth over Herbie's still-state-of-the-funk clav accompaniment prior to Herbie's final far-reaching acoustic ride on the transcendent, 17-minute version of "Chameleon" that serves as the closer and encore.
It should be remembered that this band turned in some monumental shows during its road run, including some exceeding three hours, with single musical statements weighing in at the 40-minute mark. It should be remembered that many packed houses were full of dancing, vociferous kids who craved merely a Herbie rerun, let alone all the reinvention that came along with it. By definition, this ensemble will never attain the project's implied lofty objective; that is, the intent to be all that portends jazz's future. But one screening of this DVD causes anticipation for a more achievable and perhaps more momentous idea - the chance for this band to reach its utmost potential over a deservedly full (or at least, fuller ) lifespan - not unlike some of Herbie's, and jazz's, best groups.
Approx Running Time: 1 hour and 44 minutes
Track Listing: Wisdom; Kebero; This is DJ Disk; Dolphin Dance; Virtual Hornets; The Essence; Butterfly; Tony Williams; Rockit; Chameleon.
Personnel: Herbie Hancock- piano, keyboards; Wallace Roney- trumpet; Darrell Diaz- keyboards, vocals; Terri Lyne Carrington- drums, vocals; Matthew Garrison- bass; DJ Disk- turntable.
MX Multiangle Video Collage
DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround SOund
Original "Rockit" Video from 1983
Interview with Herbie Hancock
Selected Discography with Bonus Audio Samples
Above photos of F2F, Burlington, VT, 2002 by Hugh Kalergis