How old is old enough? Good question. My mom died at age 100 and always told me I have her genes. So I’m hangin’ in til 110!!
But here’s the point: this week, my son Charlie and I attended the Herbie Hancock concert at the TD Toronto International Jazz Festival. If you’re not into jazz, you need to know that Mr. Hancock is an American pianist, keyboardist, bandleader and composer who’s been showered with 14 (yup, 14!) Grammy awards, an Oscar, and numerous other accolades. His Toronto gig was rare, postponed twice due to COVID, but there he was, finally, at the Meridian Hall.
Amazingly, this incredibly spry 83-year-old walked out on stage to thunderous applause and issued a warning: “It’s going to start out really weird,” Herbie told us. “Buckle up!”
And with that, the master – playing with the dexterity of a much younger artist – began “Overture”, a fusion-induced trip back to visits of the funk and fusion era of his extraordinary career.
Throughout the concert, he rocked back and forth between the grand piano, synth keyboard and even the keytar (a synthesizer-guitar hybrid). And at one point, he even sang, with his voice crazily distorted by a vocoder, chanting about how he was tired of making mistakes, but to do so was only human! It was clear he was having a ball, truly enjoying himself.
Actually, the Meridian Hall crowd was blessed with the presence of other superstars. I’ll let Nick Krewen from the Toronto Star tell you about that: “Accompanying Hancock on trumpet and keyboards was multiple Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated New Orleans native Terence Blanchard, filmmaker Spike Lee’s go-to film composer, who gave us ‘A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina)’ and, more recently, the score to the 2022 film ‘The Woman King’ – composed, Hancock said, on the tour bus ‘while everyone else was sleeping.’ On this night, Blanchard served as sideman, feeding his trumpet through pedals so it sounded like a chorus of horns. Rounding out the lineup was bass player James Genus, who has performed and recorded with everyone from Don Pullen and Lee Konitz to Chick Corea and Daft Punk, and a fresh-faced young lion on the drum kit, Jaylen Petinaud. ‘You’re going to be hearing a lot from him,’ Hancock promised.”
And let the record show that Herbie had no problem, at age 83, keeping pace with these guys, Blanchard, in his 60s, Genus, in his 50s, and Petinaud, in his 20s. Each of them, including Hancock, appearing as team players, never hogging the spotlight.
Only letdown of the evening? No encore. But that’s part of the always-leave-‘em-wanting-more adage, with the Toronto Star reviewer writing, “Ending the show with a mighty leap with keytar in hand, the masterful Herbie Hancock then scampered off the stage with such vitality you could almost read the mind of his elated onlookers: they can hardly wait to hear what he’s going to come up with during his next 83 years.”
How awesome it was to be to be in the presence of one of music’s true innovators, entertaining an adoring crowd that came to witness his genius.
And should I ever make it to age 83, I can only hope to be as energetic and young-at-heart as Herbie Hancock: he’s truly the master!