Thursday, August 15, 2019

Group behind Blue Smoke, New Zealand's first homegrown hit, inducted into Music Hall of Fame at Silver Scroll Awards


Three of songwriters and performers behind Blue Smoke - the first ever song to be written, recorded and manufactured here and released on a New Zealand label - will be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.
Guitarist Jim Carter.
Pixie Williams and Ruru Karaitiana will be honoured posthumously at the 2019 APRA Silver Scroll Awards, to be held in October.  Jim Carter will receive the distinction in the year of his 100th birthday.
Ruru Karaitiana with the first
pressing of Blue Smoke.
Karaitiana wrote Blue Smoke on board Aquitania, a WWII troop ship, in 1940, as he sailed towards the Indian Ocean on his way to fight with the Maori Battalion.
When he returned home in 1943 he recorded the song with Williams on vocals and Carter on guitar, and it became the first record to be pressed by TANZA (To Assist NZ Artists), the first Kiwi record label.
A number of awards will also be handed out at the ceremony on October 2, including the illustrious Silver Scroll Award, which was won last year by Marlon Williams
Vocalist Pixie Williams.
2018's Hall of Fame laureate was Break in the Weather singer Jenny Morris. Other musicians to receive the honour include The Topp Twins, Hello Sailor, Herbs and Big Runga.
Karaitiana's son Ruma and Williams' daughter Amelia Costello will accept on behalf of their parents.


Read more about Blue Smoke at Audio Culture:  https://www.audioculture.co.nz/scenes/blue-smoke


The original 1949 78
of Blue Smoke.
It would remain in the
Tanza catalogue throughout
the 1950s.

An advertisement in the
8 October 1948 Listener announces that
Radio Corp’s Columbus Recording Studios
was open for business in Wellington


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Louis Baker - San Fran - 10 August 2019




Groove went along to San Fran of Saturday to check out Louis Baker's sold out homecoming concert.  Supported by a 2 piece horn section, vocalist-supremo Lisa Tomlins and super mario all-rounder Mara TK plus his own 3 piece Louis played some fantastic nu-soul from his new album Open and a few hits from his earlier days.  Welcome back, Louis!

Photos by Tim Gruar
















MERMAIDENS PREMIERES VISUALS FOR 'MILLENNIA' LOOK ME IN THE EYE, OUT SEPT 6 ON FLYING NUN RECORDS



Mermaidens reveal a soft, pastel-infused dreamscape in their video for new single ‘Millennia
The video was directed and produced by Tom Mannion and Caity Moloney, a filmmaking duo known as Lazy Susan.

“Everything is on spinning platforms, and the video eventually reveals that this woman and all her masks are on display too,” says co-frontperson and bassist Lily West. The circling visuals feel forced from reality, as the character contemplates life in an overly constructed dream world that cycles through different personas this character has created for themselves.

“Millennia is a deadpan dig at the masks we wear. I wanted us to explore the mess of feelings around that twisted meeting of media and identity and how it can create such a warped sense of reality. There’s an implication that we can’t be successful without this system, despite it not being that much good for anybody. The song is a big faker too - it's all pep and pop hooks, but it's a sad story. The title is a personal joke about feeling old at 25, it was always meant to be the temporary title as it’s not exactly subtle. But after recording, when the song turned out to be so melodramatic, it stuck.”




Thursday, August 08, 2019



TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE THE OTHERS WAY!


August 82019: Others Way month is here! To kick off a jam-packed musical weekend, The Others Way is proud to see the return of The Night Before The Others Way.

Get into the Others Way spirit with Na NoiseMice On StiltsPollyHillFirst MoveGreen GroveDOG PowerLinenRichard Maybe’s Passion for Nature and Cave Circles & PARKS, playing across St Kevin’s beloved venues; Whammy BarWhammy Backroom and The Wine Cellar this Thursday 29 August.

Tickets are on sale now from Cosmic Ticketing!
___________________________________________________

THURSDAY 29 AUGUST


The Night Before The Others Way

Whammy, Backroom & The Wine Cellar
St Kevin’s Arcade, Karangahape Road, Auckland
Tickets on sale now from Cosmic Ticketing

THE NIGHT BEFORE OTHERS WAY LINEUP:
Cave Circles & PARKS / DOG Power / First Move / Green Grove /
Linen / Mice On Stilts / Na Noise / PollyHill / Richard Maybe's Passion For Nature


FRIDAY 30 AUGUST

The Others Way Festival 2019

Various venues across Karangahape Road district, Auckland Central
Tickets on sale through Flying Out and Undertheradar
RSVP here on Facebook
THE OTHERS WAY LINEUP 2019, TĀMAKI MAKAURAU:
Bad Timing / Bailey Wiley / BEING. / Ben Woods / Blam Blam Blam / Carnivorous Plant Society / The Chills / Chris Cohen / Church & AP / Contenders / Cortina / Crap Date / Creme Jean / Dateline / DOG Power / Echo Ohs / Gary War / Hans Pucket / Jade Imagine / Jen Cloher / John Maus / Linen / Long Distance Runner / Mermaidens / Negative Nancies / NT Honey / Ounce / Princess Chelsea / Purple Pilgrims / Reb Fountain / Richard Maybe’s Passion for Nature / Sad Freq / Shiraz & LSJ / Soaked Oats / Straitjacket Fits / Sulfate / Superstarz / The Terminals /
Tiny Ruins / Troy Kingi / Vayne / Water

Friendly Potential Others Way Afterparty 
(with Borrowed CS and Mara TK)

Neck of the Woods
$10 door entry (GA) or free entry with your Others Way wristband
RSVP here on Facebook

SATURDAY 31 AUGUST


ParrotDog, Cosmic and Flying Out proudly present:
The Others Way Wellington sideshow

San Francisco Bathhouse & Valhalla, Wellington
Tickets on sale now from Cosmic Ticketing
THE OTHERS WAY WELLINGTON SIDESHOW LINEUP:
The Chills / Chris Cohen / John Maus / girlboss /
Giantess / Purple Pilgrims / Gary War

Get into the activity this Others Way week, and let us know what you get up to!
#TheOthersWay

FLYING OUT ONLINE
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Interview with Second Unit's Chris Morely-Hall


CoffeeBar Kid talks to producer of one of Wellingotn's most intriguing shows.  Where you, audience member, get to be in the show and interact with the set from What We Do In The Shadows (the Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement Movie).

Hey you! Human! Second Unit needs you. Like, urgently. Before sunset preferably.

Come and explore, investigate, party and play on a live-action film set where nothing is quite as it seems...

What is Second Unit you ask?

Take a film set, a music festival, a comedy gig and a choose-your-own-adventure game for good measure. That’s Second Unit – not your average night out.
You and a cast of humans are needed for this supernatural misadventure into the world of film, inspired by vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. You’ll be assigned the role of a film extra and be enlisted to help wrap this film shoot of unholy proportions.

Buy your ticket and you'll gain access to an amazing and anarchic world built specially for this event on Wellington's waterfront. Allow yourself 90 minutes to explore, but don't be surprised if you want to stay...

The season opens on Thursday 13 June and has a strictly limited season until Sunday 30 June.

https://www.circa.co.nz/package/second-unit/


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Wellington Jazz Festival - Weekend Round Up


The Coffee Bar Kid spends the weekend at Wellington’s Jazz Festival and files his report.

Ghost Note – Friday 7 June / Code Quartet and Alicia Olatuja – Saturday 8 June / Simon O’Neil and Roger Fox – Sunday 9 June

Photo: Vanessa Rushton
Friday night kicked of the weekend with super-gusto.  USA outfit Ghost Note, founded by Snarky Puppy’s multi Grammy Award winning percussionists Robert ‘Sput’ Searight and Nate Werth, exploded onto the MFC stage supported by 5 of the most dynamic players I’ve seen.  Channelling Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown and Hip Hop kings like Run DMC and Public Enemy they blasted away at a fully danceable set of grooves and funk, notched up to ‘11’. 
The loud and rambunctious crowd lapped it up and threatened many times to burst out of their seats, getting up to get down.  And the band fed off this energy this energy, returning it in kind with a lively, groovy, and super tight jams. 

They began with two distinct pieces from debut Fortified, Jungle Boogie and Joshua Johnson.  Jungle Boogie gives Searight and Werth the opportunity to show off their percussion skills.  Searight, in particular, shows himself to be a clear and deft bandleader.  With his kit set up at the front of the stage, he calls, shouts and commands, hosts and converses with the audience,  From his drum stool he’s conducting his band and bringing various soloists with a challenge “Show Us whatcha got!”   
Most of the set is dedicated to the new album, Swagism, starting with the title cut.  Their interpretations of the vinyl versions are pretty true, minus the spoken word portion, but live they have so much more power. 

Photo - Vanessa Rushton
Throughout the gig they show a good balance between lyrics and freestyle. Their notes and runs were clear and articulate; the drum hits defined. There were show stopping riffs, catchy hooks, and head turning Latin beats got many people to start dancing again. They expertly executed use of free form solos which enhanced the performance rather than taking away from it, which can be a risk with jazz music.

Holding every groove together, the man himself, Dwayne “MonoNeon” Thomas, Prince’s former bassist, pounds out endlessly funky, deft, extra tight riffs, that are well deep.  This man oozes cool, even dressed in an orange jump suit and matching hat.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously, having a dangling stripped sock draped over his bass head, for further effect.

The mighty and tall Sylvester Onyejiaka, who’s also jammed with Prince and my personal favourites, Quantic, shows off his baritone sax and flutes teaming up with “the little man with the big horn”, Johnathan Mones (horns and flute).  They totally shine on the Swagism and ballsy, brassy Smack ‘em.
I loved the energy and antics of Dominique Xavier Taplin (Toto, Prince) and Vaughn Henry who flashed about behind their bunker of keyboards, synths and other techno-toys.  Both had huge grins throughout the gig as they broke in and out of numbers like Dry Rub and Funk You Muthafunka , with space age twiddles, Herbie Hancock styled 80’s syntho-riffs and mega piano vibrancies. 

In complete contrast was the guitar work of the tall, and svelte Peter Knudsen.  Dressed all in denim, he looked like a member of Calexico, not an urban funk band, but his playing was pure JB.  His riffs could definitely rival Jimmy Nolan’s.  Especially on Milkshake, one of Swagism’s biggest hits.

Instrumentally, this band was very interesting.  Having two drummers, Searight holds the groove and steers the wheel, while Werth does his best to colour every beat with toms, cymbals, tambourines and other counter beats.  They sounded almost as if there was only one drummer, but fuller.  A testament to how tight their sound was.  

By the last quarter the audience are up on their feet and clapping along like there’s no tomorrow.  The encore Funk You Mother Funker includes a swathe of James Brown soundbites which juxtapose the riffs, and there are intended pauses for effect, stop-started the grooves  and hightenting each drop until the funk can’t wait any longer.  The party was just getting started when the 90 minute call comes, so my only disappointment was that this show was just too short.  The funk never ends.

Photo: Vanessa Rushton
On Saturday afternoon I caught a one-off performance by CODE Quartet (Journeys in Sound: New music from Aotearoa and the world).  Former Wellingtonian and Tui award winner Lex French, now a Montreal resident, had brought back a group of friends to play a selection of their work and two new compositions.  The latter, Moorings (Titahi Bay) and Transience, were written by Jasmine Lovell-Smith and Lex French as special commissions from the Jazz Festival. 

CODE Quartet, which includes French, is a powerhouse collective, strongly rooted in the jazz tradition, the chord-less quartet who also feature saxophonist Christine Jensen, , bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas.

Together, they create a soundscape that is diverse and refined, providing an exciting and engaging listening experience.
Their set began with one of French’s pieces, heavily influenced by artist Gordon Walters and Coleman’s obsession with anthropology. Called Genealogy, the work sounded like an extrapolation of the standard Dancing Cheek to Cheek, although it veered off course into dangerously ‘arty’ waters several times and became confusing to listen to.

The first commission, Moorings, is a celebration of the rough Wellington foreshore, with metaphors about coming home from travelling, safe harbours and the concept of ‘home’.  You can hear sounds of the breaking waves in the deeper alto sax notes Jensen plays, and the squeaks from French’s trumpet perfectly mimic seagulls soaring high across the windy, turbulent skies created by drummer Jim Doxas and bassist Adrian Vedady. 

Doxas contributes his own beach themed piece called Rosemark Beach, a location in Scotland, with hints of bagpipes and windswept dunes, created by his brush work on the snares.
Vedady gives us Watching it All Slip Away, informed by his Canadian home location near an airport.  It’s a cool and brooding ensemble track, with an open end for his bass fret work, which his attacks with a slow deep slapping sensation. 

The second commission is Transience, a response to Moorings, and opposite.  While the first was about finding a place to stay, this one is lively and searching.  It’s opens with toots like car horns in heavy New York traffic.  Perhaps the traveler is late to the airport.  Perhaps the rolling bass is a jet plane taking off.  Perhaps the sax is the confusion of a new city.  It’s all open to translation, and you can easily get lost in it.

French, who hosted the show, told us about his own dark and further brooding dedication to a James K Baxter poem (On The Death Of Her Body).  He’d stolen the first line for his own title – My love, in the world's first summer stood.  With a dirge of horns and constricting trumpets, it felt claustrophobic and very dark.

The closing number from this lively and varied set came from sax play Christine Jensen.  Wind Up drew its references from sailing but could just as easily be a nod to Wellington’s harbour as well, being breezy and quick paced, with plenty of room for Jensen to blow some fabulous scales and arpeggios.   
Sometimes modern jazz can be confronting, other times just boring.  I was grateful for the variety, and certainly appreciated the skill of these players.  In small doses this was enjoyable and educational. Like a delicacy, it whetted the appetite for more but you always know when you’ve had enough.

Photo: Alicia Rushton
Alicia Olatuja played on Saturday night.  What an absolute star this lady is!  A magnificent voice, that ranges through several octaves.  a full-bodied tone, precise pitch and personal engagement at the lowest whisper or highest wail.
Praised by the New York Times as ‘a singer with a strong and luscious tone and an amiably regal presence on stage’, she totally blew us away tonight.  Her exquisite vocals, artistic versatility and humble, yet captivating demeanor.

A grad of the Manhattan school of Music, she first gained international attention as the featured soloist with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
The majority of her repertoire came from her critically-acclaimed album Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women, which, in her words “celebrates the achievements of esteemed female composers”. She opens with the almost Broadway-ish So Good, So Right (to be with you tonight) by Brenda Russell.  After a couple of tunes from her previous album, Timeless, she did Joni Mitchell’s Cherokee Louise, about a girl running away from sexual abuse by her step dad.  It’s an unusual choice for a mainstream styled jazz singer.  Normally you’d expect stuff like My Funny Valentine to be in her set.  But, as she told us, you have to confront uncomfortable themes and feelings sometimes.  Her treatment of Mitchell’s lesser known work was exceptionally delicate and careful, portraying the mind of a friend who supports buddy, who’s hiding under a bridge.  Her phrasing is immaculate, yet not the sterile perfection you usually get from a trained singer.  She herself is a singing teacher but she displays more than just skill, there’s also some emotion that hints that she may just know more than a little about her subject matter.

Her sexy, sultry No Ordinary Love (a Sade song), is so delicious it eclipses the original.  How she holds control of those notes and shapes them in to velvety, aural fibres is so impressive. 
She does a very Latin, sexy take on Mercedes Sosa’s Gracias a la Vida, in perfect Portuguese, with some magical scatterings. Joan Baez also does a wonderful version, but with a more folky feel.  There’s a number unaccredited, except to a student of hers, that’s slow, measured and so perfectly balanced.  Hide and Seek is about that little girl that’s always told that you are not enough.  Too black, too fat, to this too that.  Just wait… All those conflicting messages.  It’s sung from the girls perspective and is another strong message in a bottle of lush, rich jazz yet thought provoking and cool.  Done as the encore, with just a guitar accompaniment it’s the perfect closer.    
For Hide and Seek she gets everyone snapping their fingers like the sound of falling rain.  Later she’ll have us clapping and singing back.  That’s her tabernacle upbringing coming through.   
In her set she also gives us lesser known writers like Brenda Russell, and R’N’B artist Angela Bofill (Under The Moon), and Linda Creed (People Make The World Go Round – one of my favorites from the album). 

Photo: Alicia Rushton
Her band – which includes the sublime Robert Mitchell piano, – were tight and clever but never overcrowded her, they gave plenty of room for her voice and style to shine.  Only at the enduring the wind up did they take full force – on an extended and rocking blues version of Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason.  A very vulnerable take on Transform, about how the artist pours out their heart on stage, was just wonderful. 

Olatuja’s voice went from high to low tones with such ease, I found myself smiling and humming along, it was one of those performances where it proved so difficult to sit still!

Simon O’Neill with Roger Fox Big Band - Fox continues to defy musical boundaries.  He’s worked with Michael Houston and Midge Marsden.  This year he takes on Opera.  The story goes that he was in a bar with Tenor Simon O’Neill when he had one too many whiskeys and ended up playing O’Neil’s wedding with his whole touring band!  That led to a bit of a favour.  So O’Neil jumped ‘7 Planes from Berlin’ to be on stage today.  His voice is stunning.  No matter what you think of opera, it blows you away.  The  collaboration premiered new arrangements of Wagner’s Die Walküre and Notung! Notung! and Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, ground-breaking stuff and a really interesting concept.  I’m not sure jazz and Wagner always works  Wintersong, Sigmund’s Love Song, didn’t exactly work with the slowly delivered vocals not quiet merging in time and beat of the band.  But overall, an interesting idea.  No doubt this concert kept the greyer haired audience members happy.  And to see O’Neill back in Wellington was a joy in itself.  Simon O’Neill’s illustrious career spans the great operas and opera houses of Europe and the United States as well as Australia and New Zealand, so that was some feat!

The Rodger Fox Big Band also premiered some wonderful new material including the very Mancini-like Stretchin’ with Gretchen (by sax player Oscar Lavern) and a piece by departing drummer Lauren Ellis who is off to study at the acclaimed Lauren Ellis (Weather Report) School of Music in the USA.

The Wellington Jazz Festival goes way beyond the performances I saw.  On Saturday and Sunday there were 90 gigs alone around the city.  It’s a place where everything buzzes, even if Jazz isn’t your bag. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Wellington Jazz Festival 2019 - Photos


Ghost Note
Photo:Vanessa Rushton

Jazz at Rogue & Vagabond
Photo:Vanessa Rushton

Thursday Jam at Meow
Photo: Ewa Genal-Cumblidge

Shake 'Em On Downers
Photo: Vanessa Rushton

Sheba's Wunderkind
Photo: Vanessa Rushton

Lisa Tomlins
Photo: Vanessa Rushton

CODE Quartet
Photo: Stephen AÇourt

Ghost Note
Photo: Vanessa Rushton

Holly Smith
Photo:Vanessa Rushton

Sheba's Wunderkind
Photo: Vanessa Rushton

Jobic Le Masson
Photo: Ewa Genal-Cumblidge

Alicia Olatuja
Photo:Vanessa Rushton

Psyche Delic Future Jazz
Photo:Vanessa Rushton

Shake 'Em On Downers
Photo: Vanessa Rushton

Jazz at Rogue & Vagabond
Photo:Vanessa Rushton

At The Third Eye
Photo:Vanessa Rushton



Sunday, June 09, 2019

GRG67 wins the Tui - Best Jazz Artist 2019

Roger Manins (GRG67)
Tonight Roger Manins and his band GRG67 took home a Tui for Best Jazz Artist 2019 beating out stiff competition from last year’s winner Callum Allardice and Roger’s other band DOG.  A short but sweet ceremony was held with Lydia Jenkin from APRA and Wellington Jazz Festival Artistic Director Marnie Karmelita 

GRG67’S album is The Thing.  On December 10, 2016, GRG67 performed ‘recital no.3’ as part of Roger Manins's Doctor of Musical Arts requirements. This album represents just some of the music performed that afternoon. After curating a number of compositions, Roger Manins needed to find the right musicians to help bring his visions to life. And so GRG67 was born, consisting of Roger Manins, Michael Howell, Mostyn Cole, and Tristan Deck.  KungFu Alto, Bicycle Buddies, Dark Bright, Chook 40, and Psalm were recorded live at the recital mentioned above, while 10:15, The Thing and Crab Empathy were recorded later in the day.  All recorded by Rattle Records owner and Engineer, Steve Garden.


Recorded Music NZ Best Jazz Artist 2019 Finalists: Good Winter by Antipodes (Luke Sweeting, Jake Baxendale and Callum Allardice, No Dogs Allowed by DOG (Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Roger Manins and Olivier Holland) and The Thing by GRG67 (Roger Manins, Michael Howell, Mostyn Cole, and Tristan Deck).
Also presented tonight was the APRA Best Jazz Composition Award 2019 Finalists: Winner - Chungin' by Callum Allardice.  The other finalists were Follow The Sugar To The Gee by Grant Hughson and Cerulean Haze by Jasmine Lovell-Smith (Who has been commissioned to write two new pieces for this year’s Jazz Festival with Lex French).



Friday, June 07, 2019

Review: Herbie Hancock, Wellington Jazz Festival Michael Fowler Centre 5 July 2019

Photo: Tim Gruar
Coffee Bar Kid at The Wellington Jazz Festival

I’ve been to the Wellington Jazz Festival many times over the years and seen some fantastic performances but none has been greater than Wayne Shorter (who was here two years ago) and now Herbie Hancock. He is the absolute master – his universal appeal, wide influence on music, pioneering use of synths and keyboards, the re-invention of what funk is and, of course, his association with Miles Davis.
Hancock was 23 when Davis invited him to join his band, and what a band that was: with Davis leading on trumpet, Shorter (saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and drummer completing the team. Aficionados will argue until the cows come home about the minor details but that was Davis’s greatest quintet was one of the most important groups in jazz history.
“Those were very seminal, important days for me,” he told the Aussie press, recently, “and anybody who’s been influenced by not only Miles or been influenced by my playing.” He describes Davis as “the Jedi master”, and “Wayne Shorter …He’s like the living Yoda to me.” He even paraphrases Miles tonight, noting that his band is all guys – a loss to the world of jazz (no women).
His back catalogue is phenomenal. Next to Stevie Wonder, he’s a house hold name and a giant in the craft. Recent set lists have featured a range of work over the mid 70’s, his ‘classic years’. There’s a strong rumour that the 79 year old is working on a new album, one already being talked up as his most ambitious in years, and if the stars align it ‘might’ feature a cameo from one of the world’s biggest rappers, Kendrick Lamar, although that’s still unconfirmed.
In some concerts recently he has been seen on stage playing the Moog Liberation keytar, that emblem of the 80s which he used for the iconic digital track Rockit. I really wanted to see that tonight.
Regarding the set list, what exactly was on the menu tonight was a vivid point of discussion as I settled down to my seat. There were those wanting something from his early Blue Note records, maybe ‘Maiden Voyage’ (1965) or ‘Nefertiti’ (the 1968 Miles Davis album that’s the almost perfect point for post-bop). Then there were those wanting a re-creation of his 1973 funk masterpiece ‘Head Hunters’. I suspected it was going to be a bit of a milkshake of all of that.
Checking out his recent gigs, he’s still going strong. He’s just blasted shows in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne and a gig for International Jazz Day 2019 with an extraordinary All-Star Global Concert at the Melbourne Arts Centre’s renowned Hamer Hall alongside James Morrison, musical director John Beasley and an All-Star Global roster of artists from more than a dozen countries.
It’s the opening of the Wellington Jazz Festival. So after a short mihi and a speech from the Artistic Director Marnie Karmelita it all kicks off. Out come the four musicians and everyone cheers loudly, and rightly, for Herbie Hancock. The place is packed to the rafters with all ages. Even the choir stalls have temporary seating added, giving a 360 ambience to the concert as the audience surrounds the band on all four sides. They blast into a maelstrom of beguiling, cascading abstract rhythms of ‘Overture’. Almost immediately Lionel Loueke (Guitar/Vocals) goes ‘off piste’ with a volley of crazy digital toys that turn his headless all wood body guitar into a weapon of mass delusion. It mimics keyboards, synths, African instruments and even a sitar.
For the second track Loueke goes totally nuts, drumming his instrument, finger picking, rubbing it like a violin and ‘singing’ through it to transform his one voice into an infinite choir of many. Lionel Loueke’s ‘Dark Lightning / Chameleon’ was one mesmerising party trick. Even Hancock himself a pioneer of digital music is blown away. He sits awestruck on his piano stool watching with a huge grin on his face.
Loueke’s not the only incredible player on the stage. Veteran drummer Vinnie Colaiuta would rival Wayne Shorter any day. His playing is well beyond simple syncopated time keeping as he carves out hip hop and funk rhythms and juxtaposes them with deliberate cymbal crashes, almost in a competitive shouting match with the steady, reliable engine room bass of James Genus. There’s genuine playfulness and frivolity in Hancock’s style and it’s infectious. Everyone was having a ball on stage. Hancock slides between caressing the keys on his Kronos to tinkling the ivories on the grand, and, at times effortlessly playing both at once.
At one point I wonder why Hancock hasn’t made another album in recent years. But watching him on stage you can see why. He still feels absolute joy at playing live, and every performance is improvised and inventive and there’s complete passion behind it. Old tunes get revitalised as if they were composed yesterday – like ‘Absolute Proof’ from Head Hunters, dripping in layers of funk – to ‘Come Running To Me’ from Hancock’s 1978 album Sunlight. He maximises the vocoder-type technology to digitize his voice and sing robotic but sweet harmonies. About an hour in, Hancock tries out ‘Secret Sauce’, a sprawling new number featuring more of Loueke’s steely guitar. Hancock shifts to his synthesizer for a stretch out, and eventually straps on an enormous white keytar which covers most of his small frame. You’d think he could barely hold it but instead swans around like it’s made of air.
Teasing us, Hancock finishes with a few bars of ‘Cantelope Island’ before launching into a fully abstracted and elongated free jazz rendition of the song. The audience applause is deafening. This version is an ecstatic jazz fusion fizz bomb, driving at break neck speed through endless twists and turns, navigated mainly by Loueke’s synthed up guitar which takes over the usual trumpet solos and blasts them into oblivion. When Colaiuta crashes out the concluding beats the room is on its feet, overcome and wired.
But we’re not quite done. The encore, you guessed it, is ‘Rockit’. Hancock, once again straps on the beast and lets rip, jamming with Loueke and playing off him like duelling banjos. I don’t think I’ll ever see a pioneer like Herbie Hancock ever again in my lifetime – a gifted jazz, electro and rhythm scene maker who plays with such immense passion and respect for his audience. Tonight, I witnessed a genius of sound creation, and a true and pure artist like no other.
Setlist:
  1. Overture
  2. Lionel Loueke’s Dark Lightening / Chameleon
  3. Actual Proof
  4. Come Running To Me
  5. Secret Source
  6. Alone Together
  7. Cantaloupe Island
  8. Rockit [encore]

 https://www.jazzfestival.nz