The legendary Herbie Hancock brought his current gang of talented musicians to New York City’s Beacon Theatre last week and delivered a great mix of old and new by the jazz great. Thundercat opened the evening with his unique R&B, jazz-funk flavor and vibrant energy. Hancock then put on an incredible performance to a full house and showed NYC that he has still got it.
Thundercat, aka bassist Stephen Brunner, started the evening off with his band that included Dennis Hamm (keyboards) and Justin Brown (drums). His eclectic songs and talented synergy with the band was evident from the beginning. Thundercat made several dedications, including to the departed Mac Miller and Ras G, as well as to Nintendo Switch lovers (video gamers).
NEA Jazz Master and 14-time Grammy winner Herbie Hancock’s line up included Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), James Genus (bass), Lionel Loueke (guitar), and Terrace Martin (sax/synthesizer). Hancock showed his deep appreciation for his band by introducing each member individually. Bass player James Genus was announced as the current house bass player for SNL. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke were up next for the all-star introductions. Multi-genre instrumentalist and producer Terrace Martin, who according to Hancock has known and worked with Thundercat for years, rounded out this impressive team.
The band began with a feeling of old by starting with a jazz improvisation, followed by the classic “Cantaloupe Island.” The band introductions were up next, followed by the Headhunter’s “Actual Proof.” Flautist and vocalist Elena Ayodele lent her services on the next two songs. Hancock went into new territory with his skills, instruments and musical style, and gave the crowd a healthy serving of his new material. He is no stranger to new directions and this material had a fresh blend of hip-hop, R&B, jazz and funk. It will be exciting to see where Hancock goes with his new vision.
The band returned for an encore of the fan favorite “Chameleon,” which was teased earlier in the evening. Thundercat joined the party on stage to make this a memorable rendition. All musicians came together at the end for a final bow, which had the audience on their feet cheering. NYC certainly enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with this legendary musician.