The 9:30 Club, Washington, DC • March 28, 2002
“Knowledge is the past. It is technology. Wisdom is the future.”
And I guess when knowledge and wisdom combine, we have genius, because that is exactly what the audience at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., saw on Thursday, March 28, when Herbie Hancock and band exploded onto the stage. Combining Steinway, synthesizers, and Mac, jazz, electronica, and funk, Hancock showed us the future possibilities of jazz with a powerful funk seldom heard today by musicians of any genre, of any age – the true mark of a genius.
Today, when most jazzheads are still exploring the bop of some fifty years ago, Hancock has, yet again, challenged himself, creating a new hybrid of jazz that enthralled the multi-generational audience. This was not music for any moldy fig who professes what the “true” nature of jazz is. This was for the adventurer in all of us. With the rave projections on the wall and a clever use of surround sound, Hancock opened the show with an “electroteric,” Sun Ra spoken word that droned and grated but told everyone in the house that this was not your momma’s Herbie Hancock.
The band then launched into a stirring rendition of “Kebero,” with Darrell Diaz and Teri Lyne Carrington providing the vocals. The driving power of the song with Hancock’s vigorous work on synths and piano already made the show worth attending.
Whenever an artist of Hancock’s caliber embarks on a new direction, it is important that s/he assembles a group of musicians that can deliver the brilliance of her/his innovation. The veteran musician did exactly that. Darrell Diaz, as his music director, provided a very solid foundation for Hancock to leap, gallop, and sometimes whisper from, allowing this acoustic performance to sound amazingly electronic, almost atmospheric. Former “Young Lion” trumpeter Wallace Roney played a very sparse muted trumpet that not only provided a “sampled” sound but utilized space and nuance that was very Miles-like, making this reviewer realize that this is exactly the music that “The Sorcerer” would be playing right now if he were still alive. And Teri Lyne Carrington, a very accomplished jazz drummer in her own right (though apparently suffering from the flu) made the transition from jazz to funk brilliantly and, along with bassist Matthew Garrison, provided a very muscular rhythm throughout the entire concert.
What seemed like the odd man out in this “jazz” combo was Luis Quintanilla, DJ Disk. However, with turntable in hand, Disk seemed to scratch the deck into a very capable jazz instrument. It was with the next song, the hard-rocking head-nodder “This is Rob Swift,” that Quintanilla proved himself to be one of the premier turntablists operating today. He not only made the song his own but did some interesting call-and-response duetting with Hancock on the Steinway.
It was after this that the band rocketed off into the sublime, performing a 40-minute jam that started off as a ballad and careened into every genre imaginable until the dance-crazed anemic crowd was surprised an hour later by the ballad’s return. But Hancock and crew were not done. This was nearly a three-hour excursion into a very new direction in Hancock’s music, which may very well be a harbinger of things to come within jazz. Though the fusion with electronica is new, it’s an interesting return to the dancefloor with jazz. And this concert will not only amaze you with the musicianship of the artists involved but will make you dance. After some two and a half hours, the audience was exhausted and drained and thrilled to no end. Then, there was “Rockit.” The explosion and frenzy that song caused are indescribable, and words could never describe the euphoria that the encore, “Chameleon,” caused – people jumping out of their skins to dance with themselves. It was an absolutely beautiful moment that makes you realize why live performances will always beat recordings hands-down.
Herbie Hancock: http://www.future2future.com ◼