Saturday, November 22, 2008

Herbie Hancock

I experienced an unbelievably high quality 45 minutes of music on Thursday evening at Birmingham Symphony Hall. Sadly this was in the context of a three hour gig. Herbie Hancock is a jazz great and a keyboard virtuoso. He was in Miles Davis' band once upon a time and that's as good as it gets.

He attracts great musicians to play with but, and there is a but, I reckon you've done all the interesting things you can do with a chromatic (think Stevie Wonder not Blues Brothers) harmonica in two minutes so why do we have 20 minute solos?

Terence Blanchard – trumpet
James Genus – bass
Lionel Loueke – guitar
Gregoire Maret – harmonica
Kendrick Scott – drums

All the bookends of his great pieces were there but there was a lot in between I just couldn't fathom. V was the outstanding track for me - a spine-tingling, layer-of-sound about '...the sort of visitor you may not want.' Put me in mind of the improvisation Dr John does with Walk on Gilded Splinters live.

Lionel Loueke's piece Seventeens was in 17/4 time. Need I say more?

Even Chameleon was bit spoiled as an encore by everyone having a part in a call-and-response solo. Good to see the old 'keyboard-round-the-neck-played-as-guitar' routine though. l thought the 1980s had seen that off.

So, over-elaborate, extravagent, self-indulgent, weird and a bit dull in parts but I'm glad I saw him. He's 68.

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