Herbie Hancock and the Los Angeles Philarmonic Orchestra at the Barbican
Legendary jazz musician and composer Herbie Hancock returns to the Barbican for his second night, performing with the esteemed Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra – currently celebrating their centenary – as part of the annual EFG Jazz Festival, in a two-part show that brings ample joy to an audience of keen listeners.
Entering the hall, one cannot help but grin: the expansive orchestra is incandescent with its impressive array of instruments, inducing an excitement even before the opening note sounds. First to grace the stage are the honoured ensemble, led by Venezuelan virtuoso conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The LA Phil perform Guasamacabra and Téenek: Invenciones de Territorio – compositions by conductors Paul Desenne and Gabriela Ortiz – displaying their talent and superior musicianship. High-pitched piano is interspersed between booming timpani and sweeping violin flourishes, while soft xylophones and clarinet provide a gentle textured nuance behind the thundering bass drum. These contrasts in tone are reminiscent of Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi’s work in the Studio Ghibli productions, with violins creating a picture of ensuing danger, juxtaposed with reveries of calm. There is an abundance of depth, encouraging listeners to create stories, not dissimilar to the experience of listening to film scores. Hancock joins the orchestra for Chameleon, Butterfly and Rockit, as young prodigious musician Justin Tyson counts in with his drumsticks, a sweeping harp and bongos setting the mood for this tropical melody, involving record scratching by a disk jockey – which surprisingly fits in with the orchestrations –while Hancock plays the piano, keyboard and keytar effortlessly.
After a 20-minute interval, the 79-year-old icon returns to the stage alone with his principal guitarist Lionel Loueke, bass guitar player James Genus and drummer Tyson. Together they perform select songs from Hancock’s extensive oeuvre, starting off with Overture (Gershwin’s World, 1998) followed by Actual Proof (Thrust, 1974) which retains its funk psychedelic roots, Tyson’s gifted drumming almost stealing the show. Though the majority of the performance is without vocals, Loueke gently intones on Felix, one of tonight’s highlights, evoking Sting’s Shape of My Heart, while Cantaloupe is an audience favourite that reinstates Hancock’s legendary status.
The jazz star thoroughly enjoys playing with the LA ensemble, remarking, “whoever said orchestras couldn’t swing, does this one swing?” to which the audience cheer loudly in agreement, proving once again that Hancock and Dudamel, together with their musicians, are a creative force to be reckoned with.
Photos: Mark Allan/ Barbican
For further information and future events visit Herbie Hancock and the Los Angeles Philarmonic Orchestra’s website here.
Watch the video for Rockit here: