198

All the Flavors of Herbie Hancock

R.J. DeLuke By

Sign in to view read count
True to his word, Herbie Hancock is not content to play it straight. He likes expressing music in a different way, even his classic music. He doesn't like to be bored by sameness and stale musical concepts, and that was exemplified in his October 29 concert at The Egg in Albany, NY.
Hancock came with a superb quartet, not his electronic, hip-hop flavored Future 2 Future group, nor the intense and driving acoustic, neo-bop Directions in Music. This — Greg Thomas on sax, Terri Lyne Carrington on drums and Scott Colley on bass — was somewhere in between. It was a flexible group, driven by the percussive talents of Carrington, that could be funky, ethereal, mainstream jazz and avant-garde. Sometimes within the space of seconds.
And through it all was the brilliant piano of one of the true masters of the instrument. Hancock is a virtuoso, but he doesn't often flex his muscles. It's the way he touches the piano. The way he puts down the right chords for others. The way he spews out gorgeous phrases over the right rhythm — sometimes he is the rhythm — or the projects his ideas into the song's structure, whether tight-knit or loose.
"I'm always looking to create new avenues or new visions of music. I'm always interested in looking forward toward the future. Carving out new ways of looking at things," he told All About Jazz in an interview a week before the concert. He did that, for sure.

On this night, Hancock let the spirits out of the bottle. The music was adventurous, mixed with familiar, but done in a different way. It moved through various style changes seamlessly, each engaging. No boredom here.

He started to explain to the audience that he liked the "different flavors" of music that he has created over the years, jazz, funk, pop, R&B, and those would be on exhibition during the evening. At times he would start to explain what was happening — then stop, realizing the music would speak for itself. AT one of those stops, he chuckled and intoned, in a gravelly, hoarse whisper, "I'll play it and tell ya what it is later." Then laughed, remarking that the audience and even his bandmates, all much younger than he, probably didn't get the reference.

(It was a Miles comment caught on tape in Rudy Van Gelder's Prestige recording studio in the 1950s during the recording of Relaxin', with Trane, Philly Joe, Red Garland and Paul Chambers. And he was right; it went over most people's heads).

"Dolphin Dance" opened the show, a long, dreamy piece, which, as he explained, was not going to be the song people knew. Rather, it was a suite that contained thematic elements of the song, but carried many moods, soft, exploring, introspective; then building in intensity into more free-form jazz, then into a funky groove, the deep, gorgeous tone of Colley's bass always in the right place and the rhythms from Carrington flawlessly matching each mood.

Hancock said it was going to segue into "Virtual Hornets" (from Future 2 Future), but it never did. He said the musical conversation went in another direction, and, in the moment, he decided to stay with it and carry it out. Good decision.

"Middle Way," a Carrington composition, was probably the most straight-ahead playing of the night. It didn't shift much from its driving pace and the execution was fine. Close your eyes and you could almost think the angular solo lines from Thomas' tenor sax were Wayne, the rhythms Tony, and the bass Ron Carter; and feel Miles off in the wings, his solo complete, watching Herbie weave his magic over the composition.

"Got a Rhythm," the pianist said, was something based on a few Bill Evans tunes. It was introspective, like Evans, who was one of Hancock's influences, helped by Thomas on flute. But it also changed pace and even got a little funky. The exploration turned away from Evans and weaved nicely into Hancock's hit "Chameleon," which was fairly jazzy, though with some funk spice. Carrington's drums in the soulful beat refused to be hard and rote. They were intricate and interesting while still carrying the soulful vibe of the song.

For much of the night, the music seemed a conversation between Carrington and Hancock, the two speaking back and forth and playing off each other. Where one went, the other could follow. There was a palpable link between them.

Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" was exquisite, much different than other versions. Its changes were fresh and inventive, even unpredictable. There were enough references to let the listener know the tune, but it would go off elsewhere, then return. And the statement of the theme was very soft and had a very different cadence as Thomas and Hancock laid it out. It went into Future 2 Future's "Kebero," a funky escapade, and then came back to "Footprints," culminating in a soft, sweet, aching end.

Shop

More Articles

Read Panama Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Panama Jazz Festival 2017
by Mark Holston
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017
Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "We Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews We Jazz Festival 2016
by Anthony Shaw
Published: December 15, 2016
Read "Peacemaker Music & Arts Fest 2016" Live Reviews Peacemaker Music & Arts Fest 2016
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 17, 2016
Read "The Zombies at NYCB Theatre at Westbury" Live Reviews The Zombies at NYCB Theatre at Westbury
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 4, 2016
Read "Jazztopad 2016, Part 1" Live Reviews Jazztopad 2016, Part 1
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 24, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!