June 2007

Herbie Hancock
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
June 26, 2007Four Seasons Centre for the Performing ArtsToronto
Rocking the Opera
by Joyce Corbett with photo by Pixelhead
Herbie addressed his audience “This place is new. Sounds good, thumbs up. That first piece was fast, lots of strange things happening in it but it still sounded good. Thank you Toronto for building a great opera house for jazz.” The crowd applauded. “The next step is building a great jazz house for opera.” The crowd applauded, laughed and cheered. This was to be a much more talkative Herbie Hancock than I have seen on stage before. Hancock thanked the organizers for getting him an Italian-made Fazioll Pianoforte to play. “It’s the best”, he said. (advertising?)

After a preamble to “Watermelon Man”, about how fast they were or were not going to play it, Hancock sat down in front of the synthesizer and laid down an introduction. Then he stood, strapped on his keyboard and walked over to bassist Nathan East sparking a musical exchange accented in all the right places by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Chris Potter was his next partner in dialogue. It was the 21st century “Watermelon Man”, irresistibly funky and fresh.

Herbie Hancock & Chris Potter
Hancock spoke next of his CD Possibilities, a collaboration with many well-known artists including Annie Lennox, Carlos Santana, Sting and Christina Aguilera. Responding to the murmuring crowd, he said “Oh, so you’ve been to Starbucks too. You know that CD is also available in regular record stores. It was released the same day in regular stores.”

The next piece from the quartet was “Stitched Up”, written by Herbie Hancock and John Mayer for Possibilities. After a pop-ish beginning with vocals from bassist Nathan East, some delicious funk emerged. The program continued in a retrospective vein. There were a few more pieces from Possibilities amongst other material. There was an absorbing version of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” with synthesized voices, elements of soul and R&B, funk bass, hard symphonic drumming from Vinnie Colaiuta, and an inventive and lyrical solo from Chris Potter over a quieter rhythm section. About mid-show, the band left Hancock alone on stage to play a gorgeous version of “Maiden Voyage” on the grand piano.

Another song given an unusual treatment was Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. The feeling was more like “I just called to say I miss you”. By the time Nathan East’s voice hit the lyrics “no first of spring, no song to sing…no april rain, no flowers bloom” dark undercurrents, though not inescapable, were undeniable.

Hancock again strapped on his keyboard for what would be a final stroll around the stage with the drums erupting and the bass funking, rocking the opera. I noticed the “I Hit Things” printed in white on the black head of Colaiuta’s bass drum — he hits ‘em good. I had the feeling Hancock really enjoyed doing this particular show in the new opera house. It does have the best sound of any concert hall I have been in, and it’s beautiful. I only wish the seats were more comfortable — maybe I should have got up and grooved to the rhythm.

The musicians
Herbie Hancock – piano and keyboards
Vinnie Colaiuta – drums
Nathan East – bass, vocals
Chris Potter – saxophone
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
• • • • • •
• •
The Live Music Report

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2007