Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock celebrated his five decades in the field by staging an energetic concert in Thailand’s capital.
“This is Hancock saying ‘Hullo to Bangkok!” said the legendary musician with charm, before unleashing his prodigious music to a sell-out audience in Bangkok recently.
Even a badly equipped centre such as the Siam Paragon Hall reverberated with the masterful rhythms of the inimitable Herbie Hancock, considered the greatest jazz pianist alive, who has jammed with the best names in the industry.
The concert, which was part of a tour to celebrate Hancock’s five decades in the music industry, proved why he has lasted so long in its ever-changing scenario.
Herbie Hancock has lasted because of his amazing capacity to adapt to a diverse range of musical genres. It’s no wonder that the musical artiste was named ‘ One of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, ‘ by Time magazine.
As the immortal Miles Davis said in his autobiography, “Herbie was the step after Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and I haven't heard anybody yet who has come after him.”
It’s for his ground-breaking achievement at crossing musical boundaries that Hancock remains a stupendous icon, and after five decades, he does not seem to have lost his passion or energy, judging by his Bangkok concert.
Whether it was microcosmically minute or magnificently loud notes on the piano, the 71-year-old artiste’s absolute concentration was a lesson in endurance.
A child prodigy, Hancock started his musical career with Miles Davis Quintet in 1963. It was in 1973 that the young musician started his own group, ‘Headhunters,’ whose first album became the first-ever jazz album to go platinum. Hancock went on to create 11 albums, performing all over the world, including with brilliant artistes such as Chick Corea and Oscar Peterson.
In the 1980s, he began his collaborative music, and the single ‘Rockit’ won him the first of his 14 Grammys. Its video track won him five MTV awards. It was in 1986 that Hancock created waves by winning an Oscar for scoring the music for the film, ‘Round Midnight, ’ in which he also appeared as an actor. In 1998, came the album, ‘Gershwin’s World,’ with many collaborators, including Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder, which went on to win three Grammys. ‘Possibilities’ in 2005 teamed Hancock with many popular artistes such as Sting, Christina Aguilera, Santana and Paul Simon. Two years later, he recorded one of his most acclaimed albums, ‘River-The Joni Letters,’ as a tribute to his long-time friend Joni Mitchell. He enlisted famous vocalists such as Tina Turner and Leonard Cohen, apart from Nora Jones among others. It was the Top 10 choice for many critics, and won two Grammys, including the Best Contemporary Jazz album- a rare honour for jazz music. His latest album ‘The Imagine Project’, was made up of musical genres and musicians from around the world, created waves globally. A unique album ‘Then and Now: The Definitive Herbie Hancock’ offers a retrospective of the brilliantly varied rhythms of this musician. And so, at Bangkok, the brilliant musician moved from jazz to rock, funk, rap, hip hop, in his two-hour concert that had his mixed audience (young and old) on their feet. He improvised magnificently, indulging in great ‘jugal bandhis’ with his sizzling accompanists, drummer Trevor Lawrence and bass player James Genus.
Apart from his famous jazz standards such as ‘Cantaloupe Island’ and ‘Watermelon Man,’ Hancock played tracks from his new album, ‘The Imagine Project’ ,which he said took two years to compile, and was recorded with artistes from 11 countries and in seven languages. These included musicians from Somalia, Congo, Mali ,Mexico, and Hancock jokingly ‘hunted’ for the instruments of these countries, including the ‘thumb piano’ from Congo, only to state that they were all in his ‘thumb drive’! To prove that he was techie performer of the 20th century, Hancock thumped simultaneously on his piano and his electronic synthesiser, and finally a slick keytar strapped on his shoulder!
To reinforce his connection with the youth, Hancock had a young and attractive singer Kristina Train reproducing the famous songs from his latest album, including John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus’, and Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times they are Changin.’ Dylan’s song was the last number, accompanied by Irish rhythms on a violin, and was fitting conclusion to a show that was full of brilliantly ‘changin’ rhythms.
But as Hancock told his audience, his last global album was basically a quest for peace – “ The kind of peace we want in this globalised world.”
“ It’s up to the people to create this world peace,” said the legendary musician, who apart from chairing various jazz-institutes around the world, is currently involved with the International Committee of Artists for Peace (ICAP), which he himself founded and which he calls an extension of his prodigious musical psyche.
Keywords: Herbie Hancock