Exactly ten years ago I went to see Herbie Hancock for the first time in my life, at the Massey Hall in Toronto. It was days before my wedding, and was a birthday gift I offered myself at 33.
It was a memorable concert, with Roy Hargrove, Michael Brecker and Herbie at the front, backed by the fierce rhytmic section of John Patitucci and Brian Blade. The concert was that good that its poster is now hanged in the bar under the stage, alongside other special MH memorabilia.
Fast forward 10 beautiful years, and here I was again in the same place, with a 71-year old Herbie fronting with verve and charisma the exceptional Massey Hall Orchestra. It was a Gershwin night. “Rhapsody In Blue” was such an uplifting experience that I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face and the glow off my eyes for hours.
Besides the music he played with great aplomb and unique technique, Herbie showed some good humor in between the pieces. It was great to hear the man speaking as it added to the overall happy charisma he was radiating.
Massey Hall Orchestra opened with a 30-minute set of Gershwin (and their own pianist on a piano at the back of the stage).
Then Herbie stepped in for the solo piano part of the concert. He picked up the microphone and, standing, assured everybody “if you want to hear Rockit this is not your night”.
He was dressed up formally, in a combination of black and dark purple. He appeared to be in great physical shape, and the acuity of his playing confirmed that.
The solo piano part included a Gershwin ballad, a Wayne Shorter re-interpretation, Cantaloupe (in a very high pace, abstract jazz manner) and a few more.
It was an acoustic feast, in the great cave of the Massey Hall, with the fabulous piano and a full house.
Without any intermission, the Massey Hall Orchestra stepped in and the instantly recognizable beginning of the Rhapsody In Blue was heard in less than 5 minutes.
As one that studied classical piano for 8 years, I know the complexity of the piece for a pianist: it is a real test!
Herbie went through it as he just composed it, with confidence, love and brilliance!