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Concert Review: Herbie Hancock at the Bergen Performing Arts Center
by Yahel Ben-Zvi

Let’s start off with a little background about Herbie Hancock. If you don’t know who he his, then he is certainly someone you should check up on. As of now Herbie is 78 years old, and in the sixth decade of his professional career, and is still performing and composing. Hancock started his career with Donald Byrd, and then moved on to become Miles Davis’s pianist. Herbie Hancock is a jazz legend, and helped evolve and redefine jazz. Over the years he drifted through jazz, funk, post-bop, different fusion styles, even electro. And after all these years performing, composing, pianoing, he ended up in the Bergen PAC on Saturday where I saw him live with a crowd of all ages.

The band was set up like this: Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, James Genus on bass, Lionel Loueke on guitar, Terrace Martin on alto saxophone and keyboard synthesizer, and of course, Herbie Hancock on piano, keyboard, and his famous keytar. The show started off in a mysterious mood, with a bunch of electric and synthesized sounds flying around the audience for a good couple minutes until you could eventually hear a melody being born from beneath it. The show lasted for two hours with no breaks between songs, giving a feeling of one continuous composition with familiar and unfamiliar tunes emersed and drizzled in, with a very prominent "Actual Proof". There was just one break halfway through where the Herbie got up to introduce the band.

The music was wild. It was, all in all, much more experimental than what I originally expected, but knowing Herbie Hancock’s vast variety in genre, it was not surprising. All of the band members worked really hard and greatly. Colaiuta was keeping beat with Genus playing funky bass lines. Loueke was playing amazing riffs and singing at two completely different tempos, sometimes one was faster than the other, and they switched, all very masterfully. Martin was controlling some of the so-called random synthesizer sounds that were bouncing around while soloing on the saxophone and singing too. And then comes Herbie, my main man. He is playing piano and keyboard, switching between the two, sometimes even both at the same time, one with each hand. He had a couple vocal parts here and there too. Then he got up and whipped out his keytar (like this keyboard in the shape of a guitar) and everybody cheered.

When the concert was over, Hancock’s band got a standing ovation that lasted a nice while, so much so that some people already began leaving. All of a sudden, unbeknownst to the audience, who were expecting an encore, the first few notes of "Chameleon" began playing, and then we realized that Herbie took his keytar with him backstage, and started the encore when we were least expecting it. The five artists ran back on stage and proceeded to play such a phenomenal rendition of "Chameleon", much of which seemed improvised on the spot. Hancock and Loueke were having a small keytar-guitar battle with Martin holding a wailing melody. Everyone, old and young, got up from their seats and ran to the front couple rows to witness this legend playing (what I believe to be) his most legendary song, but a new and unheard version of it. Wow. That’s all I have to say. Wow.