By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Bill Cosby offered witticisms at a pre-concert reception, but his onstage introduction went like this: "Jack DeJohnette. Ron Carter. Herbie Hancock." Hancock and Carter exchanged ideas with a sensitivity worthy of their Miles Davis work as the trio walked Hancock's "Toys" through a range of tempos and ingeniously avoided the melody of Jimmy Van Heusen's "Thought About You." Michael Brecker, absent recently due to a bone marrow disease, brought the crowd to its feet just by showing up; his climactic tenor solo during Hancock's "One Finger Snap" heightened the triumphant mood.
The shift to Hancock's new quintet was jarring, not least for the sudden loss of focus. Hancock was surrounded by too many keyboards and accompanied by too many willing soloists. When bassist Marcus Miller joined in for Hancock's funk anthem "Chameleon," the music tightened admirably if datedly. But Hancock's duets with Gonzalo Rubalcaba wiped away any previous sins. Essaying Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," the two pianists offered a startling contrast of touchRubalcaba's light and glistening, Hancock's denser and more resonant. Each issued subtle harmonic and rhythmic challenges, every one answered.
Hancock's closest personal and music relationship, with Wayne Shorter, yielded the evening's best segment. The two had toured in this quartet before, with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Brian Blade, and their comfort showed. Two Shorter tunes and one by Holland formed an extended suite, its ebb-and-flow irregular but wholly organic. Though Shorter took one worthy soprano solo, more impressive were the small details: Shorter's breathy tenor runs through Hancock's clever changes, Holland's bounding ostinatos, Blade's ingenious displacements. These were possibilitiesthe endless kinds.