On Wednesday night, the Duke City received a royal visit. Hosting one of the historical greats, the Kiva Auditorium held court for the legendary Herbie Hancock. Brought by the irreplaceable AMP productions, the promise of this night’s performance drew a crowd of all ages who attentively listened and shined in wonder of Hancock from start to finish.

Although using an established, undeviating setlist for this tour, there is nothing standard about the music being played. Clocking in at just under two hours, Hancock & Company are delivering a single set and encore that swings the spectrum of new and old pieces by this master of jazz and fusion. Consisting of only six songs, each piece reached double digits in length and was executed precisely, even to the most learned jazz aficionados in the house.

Although most reviews give a blow by blow detailing of a performance, this experience was one that would fall under the category of ineffable and would remain short even still if every expression in the book were used. What made this concert stand in such a way were of course the pieces as well as the performers.

The Band

Vinnie Colaiuta & James Genus

For over four decades, Vinnie Colaiuta has literally played with everyone from every genre and continues to do so. Watching him perform, it is a wonder that no one has given him the nickname “The Train” as he incessantly chugs along, keeping perfect time, and maneuvers the twists and turns of whatever track he is driving. His face constantly mimics the energy of his contribution and each tune ends in an ear-to-ear grin dripping with sweat. His foundational counterpart, James Genus, is a monster in his own right. This behemoth is frequently found with eyes closed as his expression takes on various forms, from twisted grimace as he digs in deeps to kid-like smile as he acknowledges his place in the wonder that is this band. His fingers unremittingly gait the 5-string bass and the man ceases to take a break or lay back unless the piece calls for it. The pairing of these two is complete and their complexity compliments the group and creates a base that their band mates can rely on.

Lionel Loueke

Hailing from Africa, this pauper-to-prince musician is a sight to see and a valued contributor to this line-up. Like his band mates, he is relentless in what he is playing and never loses the sound of where he is in the mix. His shifts from support to principal and back again comes off as effortless. Of all the players, with maybe the exception of Colaiuta, he has more rock star persona in his being as he animates in body, facial expression, and dance moves throughout his performance. Often under closed lid and with grand beam, he mutedly sings the notes while he plays them and he throws his lashed guitar about, putting every part of himself into the constructs. It is no wonder that Hancock selected this man and references him as “being more than one person as he performs.”

Terrace Martin

Coming from jazz roots, this Los Angeles hybrid emanates talent on a number of levels. From writer to rapper, to producer to actor, this multi-instrumentalist leaves nothing lacking from his side of the stage. Juxtaposed to Hancock, Martin adds vocal and keyed support and also shines on alto sax, the brass being almost as reflective as the sound radiating from the bell. He is by far the most stoic in his affect, but this aspect does not lessen the aptitude he brings to the stage and the audience certainly recognizes this apparent humility in the youngest associate in this firm.

Herbie Hancock

Ringing in at 77 years young, from free jazz to fusion, this maestro’s love for the craft remains obvious, demonstrated by smiles at his own creations, the fabrications of his fellow players, and his insanely honed and relevant chops. He works as both leader and follower and conducts with the ears of an elephant. For even those who do not consider the fusion works as jazz, no one can deny that when sincerely listening to his inventions that what he rolls out is sublime and crafted by the soul.

“Chameleon” was the final tune of the night and everyone recognized it from the start, not only by the intro, but also by Hancock’s return to the stage, Keytar in hand. This funk anthem was not cut short or played out of need for an encore, but stood alone and would have no matter where it laid in the set. The vitality of this septuagenarian demonstrated that one is only as old as they let themselves become. This was revealed by not only Hancock’s ability to carry this ten pound instrument around the stage for twenty plus minutes, but as the tune ran its final climb, Hancock jumped up and down, feet leaving the stage, repeatedly and in time. At the tune’s close, after waving to the standing ovation, Hancock, after two hours, literally jogged off stage as if these were the days of Davis.

The recommendation here is that if this tour is coming anywhere near you, GO SEE IT! The structure, the improvisation, and the chance to see musicians of mythical proportions will not disappoint and gives a listen into what is the foundation of so many of the modern day bands that fans follow around the country in search of catching the IT moments. Long Live The King!

Setlist: Herbie Hancock | Kiva Auditorium | Albuquerque, NM | 8/16/17

Overture, Actual Proof, Come Running To Me, Secret Source, Cantaloupe Island

E: Chameleon