Herbie Hancock :: 06.25.04 :: Carnegie Hall :: New York, NY
Very good things happen when jazz meets jam.
Out of the blue came Bill Cosby to introduce the band, and we were off. They opened with a mesmerizing 15 minute J-A-M. It started with Herbie Hancock solo for about three minutes, then bassist Dave Holland, drummer Brian Blade, and finally horn man Wayne Shorter coming in one at a time in three minute intervals for a very minor and heavy jam with incredible dynamics. The staggered entrances were extremely exciting because you wondered when each member was going to actually start playing. Each member's entrance was so subtle it was like he had been playing all along--they each just eased right into it. They explored several areas of tension and dynamic both individually and as a team. The ending was incredible, a decrescendo that lasted so long that it is impossible to say when it actually started. The volume decreased and decreased, then let out so smoothly that when it was finally over, the whole room was dead silent for a good 20 seconds before people finally accepted that it was over and began applauding. It was as professional a jam as I've ever seen!
The rest of the set consisted of almost exclusively deep and minor key tunes, all opening with jams before the head. They never returned to the head after solos, instead using the tunes as jam vehicles and ending with their mesmerizing and perfect decrescendos. Holland and Blade really led the way through these jams. Shorter actually offered very little in the jams, but he made his contributions count and the jams flowed beautifully with and without his playing. It is very, very rare to see a musician, particularly one of Shorter's prominence, willing to sit back for the better part of a performance. It is even more rare to see a musician play so little and yet still bring the show up to its maximum potential.
After a one hour, 19 minute set, the band left the stage, came back and encored with "Cantaloupe Island." Talk about a tune I never thought I would see performed live in a million years! Hancock played a fantastic, pulsating beat throughout the tune on just the lowest 12 keys. It was an incredible piano line. After one of Shorter's only true solos of the evening, they mopped up with another short group jam and the only hard ending of the night. The place went nuts. My only criticism of the performance was its brevity. 1:19 is too short for any concert, sporting event, theatre production, basically any entertainment, especially when tickets are $30-$75. Aside from that, what they did play was about 85% straight jamming, and a style of jamming that no jam band can approach. The players listened and complimented incredibly, working magnificently as individuals and as a cohesive unit.
Herbie Hancock, piano
Wayne Shorter, saxophones
Dave Holland, bass
Brian Blade, drums
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