Herbie Hancock.

The Barbican


The 30th anniversary of the EFG London Jazz Festival kicked off in style with a performance from one of the all-time greats Herbie Hancock.

The jazz icon received a standing ovation just by walking onto the stage - the energy from the crowd gave the 82-year-old a spring in his step as he jogged the final few steps.

Hancock is in the sixth decade of a jazz career which has transcended genres and continued to innovate and adapt. It's encapsulated by the array of instruments that surround the 14 times Grammy- winner, pivoting from a synth to his "favourite" grand piano.

Hancock introduced Overture with the comment that the band “never quite know what it's going to be, it’s going to be whatever it is”.

That proved true as the number went from psychedelic to funk to skat singing, but the beauty of good jazz is you never know where it will go. Afterwards Hancock asked the audience: “Was that too weird?”

For one riff, guitarist Lionel Loueke burst into skat singing with vocal clicks, bringing a big smile to the face of Hancock and his fellow musicians. Even after so many decades, he clearly gets enjoyment from watching his band improvise.

He gained acclaim in the mid-60s as part of Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet and rolled back the years to perform Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, which featured on the 1966 album Miles Smiles.

Each band member is a master of their craft and plays to the highest level - from the psychedelic bass riffs of James Genus to the incomprehensible drum solos of Justin Tyson, and the brilliant Terence Blanchard who has almost impossible shoes to fill on trumpet.

Hancock started the encore by quoting Steve Jobs: "I’ve got something else to show you." He then teased the opening notes of Chameleon on his keyboard guitar, prompting a huge cheer from the audience. An exciting funk riff with his bandmates finished with a Chuck Berry-esque jump, getting us up on our feet for another standing ovation.

Live jazz is understated, there are no special effects or lighting tricks - just let the music take you on a journey. And Herbie Hancock is the best tour guide you could wish for.