Herbie Hancock continues to build on his larger-than-life legacy by not only having been there when, but by continuing to consistently be there then. In no small part this is what makes him, at a dashing 62 (last year, Herbie told one Mr. Letterman, in front of a nationwide audience, somehow with absolute total class, that he was 52), jazz's spokesperson of choice for such contrasting consumer goods as handmade Steinways and hand-held Cliés. Always challenging and reinventing himself, notice you'll never find Mr. Hancock's talking head professing the "true" nature of jazz. We can point to him as an architect of modal jazz, with (and without) Miles during the post- Kind of Blue
period, a pioneer of electronic jazz-funk with Sextant
, or the progenitor of DJ/Jazztronica styles with the hit single, "Rockit". This winter we find him, with his latest offering from his most recently formed electric touring unit, the Future 2 Future Band, again at the apex of the development of another medium of expression and entertainment, the DVD as home-theater concert paradise.
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.