HERBIE HANCOCK | Copenhagen Jazz Festival

Herbie Hancock is an omnipresent character of summer 2017 as his new band seem a certain headliner at jazz festivals throughout Europe.  It is unique to Copenhagen Jazz Festival, however, that he jostles amongst the programme alongside 1400 other artists.  Though the riches are plentiful (see Anoushka Shankar, Jamie Cullum and Erykah Badu), Hancock’s diamond status and iconic heritage ensure that he could not be upstaged on any billing.

Aged 78, Herbie Hancock’s dexterity at the piano and appetite for exploration show no sign of dwindling.  He shuffled on stage to a roaring ovation before squeezing inside his cave of keyboards in which he was encased at every angle by electronic toys; a tempting keytar sealed his exit.  At various points throughout the concert Hancock swivelled on his piano stool to peer at the digital displays of each keyboard, poking away in search of a voice to push the palette further.  It was not always clear if he found exactly what he was probing for, but felt so very worthwhile when he dragged a glissando up the full length of the grand piano and landed on the adjacent Korg for a single stab.

A well camouflaged Chameleon revealed itself mid-set, but its famously funky baseline remained hidden.  Instead the performance’s preference was largely for synth-scape explorations and un-Earthly creations from guitarist Lionel Loueke.  At times the Mwandishi-meanderings seemed to push too far, even with Vinne Colaiuta’s thundering drums to root the rhythm, and Actual Proof held only brief moments of familiarity.  Hancock was clearly in his element though and left generous space for the rest of the band, responding to their solos in turn with piano interjections and a wry smile of appreciation.

When Hancock leaned inside the piano to scratch at the strings in search of new noises, there were brief glances amongst the rest of the band at what appeared to be a deviation from the set list.  A moment later though and he was back in his seat rolling through the irresistible riff of Cantaloupe Island, through which Terrace Martin ripped an audience-frenzying saxophone solo.  As an occasion of pure jazz bliss of heritage and future pushing forward together we thought things couldn’t get any better.  We were wrong: Herbie Hancock returned for an encore, striding onto stage strapped to his keytar and shredding through Chameleon in a blaze of synthesised glory.

The Copenhagen Jazz Festival runs from 7th to 16th July. You can view the whole programme here.

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