A ground-breaking genius in many genres including funk, jazz, and ambient, Herbie Hancock is in tune with his audience at this Edinburgh International Festival gig, as he relishes in not only his own shortage of limitations but more so, that of his band. With promises of allowing the audience to gaze down a telescope at the work we are about to bear witness, Hancock surprisingly does not oversell.
Commencing the set with a 25-minute overture that Hancock alluded would
pull in various aspects of his work, it’s soon established that this is simply
miles above the standard new album plug gig, with an artist respected and
reputed, feeling the pull of where he and his super-tight band want to take us. And with James Genus on bass, Lionel Loueke on guitar as well as Justin
Tyson on drums, who could blame him.
With a classic jazz set-up, though fresh in their approach to each of their
instruments, the arrangements are predictably sparse in sound until Hancock gets going on that Korg, and the swells begin. Wayne Shorter’s Footprints follows this epic meander through Hancock’s mind, journeying us to the ‘good stuff,’ meaning those solos that would astound audience members across The Playhouse.
Actual Proof is a classic mix of Hancock, a culmination of the discordant, jazz, improv, harmonies, funk and mixed tempos that all illuminate the work of this great jazz legend. However, it’s Justin Tyson that gets the real spotlight, as he delves into a solo that makes us all realise why he’s sought after by musicians such as Kamasi Washington. It’s an astounding solo that renders him on par with the others on stage, manoeuvring his way across the drum kit in that sports jumper hinting at the age of the legend we are all witnessing (Hancock is 82 by the way, not simply 81).
Come Running to Me is the first track on the set list whereby we are exposed to Hancock’s vocals but certainly not in their full nakedness. His use of vocoder in his work is brought in for this song, throwing more discord into this night of extraordinary music. James Genus’ solo perhaps is the first to throw us outside of the jazz zone into more poignant, indie alternative sounds, as the deep muffled tones of that bass aren’t notably dissimilar to those of Jonny Greenwood on a Radiohead track. And with that flawless instrumentation and technique, Genus holds the same kudos, filling the room with that gorgeous sound.
However, as solos go it’s guitarist, Lionel Loueke ,that raises the bar, creating noises with both mouth and guitar during snippets of Rockit that seem improbable for most of us in that room, including Herbie. There’s a sense of awe in the room, as we all witness this unique creation of sounds that ultimately works us up to a standing ovation at the end of the night. With Herbie on the keytar to conclude the night’s events with some light
entertainment and dancing, it’s obvious that the audience are bowled over by Hancock’s itinerary for the Edinburgh International Festival gig.