It's always great to hear live music, and it's always a privilege to get to hear one of the greatest musicians to ever walk the planet give a concert in one's hometown. One of my true heroes, Herbie Hancock, brought an all-star quartet to Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall last night. It was not sold out, but close to full, and as Mr. Hancock alluded, the "vibe" was great. I think oftentimes, jazz concerts in big halls fill up because of name recognition, regardless of whether anyone knows an artist's work. I think it would be hard to find someone at last night's venue who hadn't at least heard "Chameleon," or "Rockit," or at the very least "Watermelon Man."( Actually, some people walked out rather early; they may have been expecting something more in the "traditional jazz" vein.)
Hancock's ensemble featured the great Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals, who almost stole the
show with a solo feature where he used effects pedals to make it sound as though he could use his single voice to make the sound of a West African choir. James Genus, one of the great bass players in jazz and fusion( if you have seen Saturday Night Live, he's sitting in the band on stage left during the opening monologue) was holding it down on electric, but also took some beautiful solos. The drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta, is arguably one of the greatest drummers ever in history. (Hancock alluded to Colaiuta's regular gig with Sting by saying, " he has a day job!")That being said, when the quartet opened with "Actual Proof," one of Hancock's classic tune from the 70's album "Thrust," I found myself missing drummer Mike Clark's raw Oakland funk and jazz vibe rather than the slick fusion vibe of Colaiuta. Again, don't get me wrong, few can play with the combination of precision and heart the way Colaiuta does.( I actually recorded with Colaiuta on a Richard Bona album called "Tiki.") Later in the concert, Colaiuta did some ferocious displacements on a funky version of "Cantaloupe Island."
Hancock, who I believe is 72 years old, had more energy and enthusiasm on stage than most of my students! He still plays the piano with so much reckless abandon, and also switches easily between acoustic piano and electric keyboards. He jumped around the stage with his keytar like the lead guitarist with a hair band! It was definitely a fusion kind of event, although a solo piano intro to "Speak Like A Child" (which seemed to be in three keys at once) was definitely worth the price of admission( which surprisingly was only $35 dollars each for us!). In a time when we are losing a lot of the older masters, it's nice to know that Herbie Hancock is still out there playing with the spirit of a teenager.