Even amid chaos, Hancock has charm
Deconstructionism was in the air during Herbie Hancock’s Wednesday concert at Royce Hall.
Some of it was intentional -- a manifestation of the veteran jazz pianist-composer’s effort to move beyond structural frameworks into a liberated form of improvisational spontaneity. Some was not -- a sense of randomness regarding who would play what at what point, and how to end a piece in a unified fashion.
Interestingly, there was a kind of occasional musical charm to this interfacing of determined spontaneity and random chaos, an opening up of possibilities for sudden, unplanned inventiveness. This was particularly true in the lengthy opening tour through “Dolphin Dance,” and a stunning, climactic rendering of Wayne Shorter’s classic “Footprints.”
The middle section of the two-hour concert was considerably more uneven, however, which was surprising given that the program selections were essentially similar to what Hancock has offered in other presentations with this ensemble.
Amid the ups and downs, Hancock’s expressed goal to find “new” ways of approaching pieces such as “Dolphin Dance” (as well as “Virtual Hornets,” “Chameleon” and “Kebero”) worked best when he was in direct connection with the subtle timbres of Terri Lyne Carrington’s drumming. Maintaining eye contact, exchanging body language accents, the pair provided the catalyst for many of the ensemble’s most compelling moments.
Hancock’s soloing coalesced into his customarily stirring creativity at unpredictable moments -- appropriately so, given his approach to the music. Saxophonist Gary Thomas, except for one or two galvanizing bursts (especially on “Footprints”), was a low-visibility participant, and Scott Colley’s fine bass playing too often was rendered indistinct by the Royce sound system.