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08 Jun 2019

Herbie Hancock review


The mark of a bandleader can be gauged by his generosity towards the musicians he leads. Comfortable in his own skin, surrounded by the best, the best himself.

At this, Herbie Hancock excels.

He didn’t just “introduce the band”, he poured genuine adoration upon each member of his small but outstanding ensemble.

And that’s high praise from such a musical genius.

But then, these are not your run-of-the-mill kind of musos.

It was a cold winter’s night in Canberra when the Herbie Hancock quartet entered the stage and began a journey of musical wizardry that thoroughly thrilled the audience.

Silence was broken with the first synthesised notes piercing the auditorium with an eerie whale-song sound that mesmerised everyone.

Noodling on his Korg synth, Hancock was met with the most fascinating guitar sounds from Lionel Loueke, with James Genus confounding on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta (of Frank Zappa fame) all-commanding on drums.

This group must rank as one of the world’s very best jazz outfits.

Together, the improvisers moved into Hancock’s Overture as the bandleader switched between his Korg and a baby grand piano.

Loueke then sang a little and began clicking vocals of the African traditions. Spellbinding.

After a couple of meandering pieces, which lasted more than half an hour, Hancock spoke his first words and let us know how much fun he was having. So were we.

It was then he made sure we knew – just in case we hadn’t noticed – that he only works with the best.

Much of the night dug deep into Hancock’s jazz fusion catalogue, with a nod to his one-time band the Headhunters – Actual Proof being a real treat from that era.

Hancock sang through a synth himself for a while and sounded amazing.

Secret Sauce introduced Herbie’s keytar to the night.

With this portable keyboard hanging round his neck, Hancock was more easily able to interact with his bandmates and the audience. And the music got funky!

Throughout the night, each band member took solo turns that were all incredible. Genus’s bass solo was beautifully indescribable – and so was his second one.

The end of the two-hour concert brought the whole house to its feet with an extended standing ovation – which was rewarded with an extended version of Hancock’s famous Cantaloupe Island as the encore.

Suddenly, the aisles were full of people dancing while Herbie and the band kept pumping it out.

Hancock, 79, is one of the few links we still have to Miles Davis, and one of the remaining musicians who can claim to have helped shape the music of the long-gone legendary jazz trumpeter.

But he doesn’t make that claim. Instead, Hancock insists he learned so much from Davis. He surely did, but the reverse is true also.

Herbie Hancock is one of the true innovators of jazz, having pioneered jazz fusion, post-bop, and electro-jazz, while introducing the world to a whole new sound.

And in June 2019, he’s rocking Australia.    



Published: 08 Jun 2019