A Fazioli concert grand piano sits center stage. Out walks UNC Professor Louise Toppin who provides us a fitting introduction to an icon of modern music. She introduces Herbie Hancock as a legendary pianist and composer who transcends musical genres.
Hancock’s illustrious career got off the ground when, in May 1963, he joined Miles Davis's "second great quintet." He has an Academy Award for his Round Midnight film score and 14 Grammy Awards, including River: The Joni Letters, which won 2008’s Album of the Year. Hancock is a prolific composer having released 49 albums. Few realize he produced Wynton Marsalis’ first album for CBS records which sold over 120,000 copies.
Hancock put on a highly entertaining show at UNC’s Memorial Hall. Although he is primarily know as a jazz pianist, it is his ‘funky’ jazz that I personally enjoy the most. Hancock is one of the finest jazz musicians to embrace music synthesizers. Many of his songs "cross over" and achieve commercial success among pop audiences. It is not common for a mostly instrumental act to connect so well with a mainstream audience. The show was a huge success. This was in a large part due to Hancock’s entertaining anecdotes in between songs.
Hancock’s 4 piece band was over the top featuring James Genus on bass, Lionel Loueke on guitar, and Trevor Lawrence, Jr. on drums. They really jammed! I enjoy hearing a group of musicians who have so much class. Hancock is an exceptional band leader. He really brings out the best in his fellow musicians. They were all having so much fun. Hancock wore a Cheshire cat grin almost the whole night.
Loueke had an extended solo in the middle of the concert. During his solo, he used a loop pedal to record a very unique rhythm. I have never heard a guitar sound like a set of congas. This was truly amazing and the audience really responded when he started singing in an African style.
Hancock did not disappoint and played many of his most popular compositions, including "Maiden Voyage," "Watermelon Man," "Chameleon" and "Rockit." When Herbie stepped out from the keyboards he would pick up his keytar and trade licks with his band mates. He often left them wondering how to respond.
Now in his fifth decade as a performing artist, Herbie Hancock remains where he has always been: in the forefront of world culture, technology and music. At the concert he announced the upcoming International Jazz Day. Hancock sponsored this initiative to promote intercultural dialogue as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. International Jazz Day is to be held annually on April 30.