by Brian Weidy
Herbie Hancock brought his trio Friday night to the acoustically near-perfect Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The trio, which also includes James Genus on bass and Trevor Lawrence, Jr. on drums, brings with them a variety of experiences, such as Genus’ role on the Saturday Night Live band and Lawrence’s experiences with Dr. Dre, among others.
The band opened with the classic “Actual Proof,” off Hancock’s 1974 album Thrust. The trio intricately weaved through the song’s many tricky passages, and the cohesion between band members was truly remarkable. After a long bit of banter from Hancock, he proclaimed that they were going to play a combination of Lionel Loueke’s “Seventeen” with his own “Watermelon Man.” This produced one of the funkiest songs of the night: splitting the head with Genus, Hancock eventually moved to the keytar, with he and Genus locked in a duel. Their solo kept building and building, ascending the scales higher and higher to create an intense musical climax.
Closing out the first part of the show, the band took on Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” After an incredible solo by Hancock on the upright piano, Genus got his chance to shine with a phenomenal bass solo while Lawrence kept everything in check, displaying his immense skill-set without showing off.
To start the second half, Hancock walked onstage alone for a 10-minute solo performance, incorporating themes from “Maiden Voyage” into his improvisation. The rest of his band then came out, and after a lengthy intro launched into the familiar head of the classic “Cantaloupe Island."
After a quick encore break, Hancock broke out the keytar once again for the classic “Chameleon,” off of 1973's Head Hunters. After a fleet-fingered solo by Hancock, Lawrence treated the audience to his first drum solo of the night. Hancock then turned his keytar into a MIDI-trigger for a variety of human sounds before reprising the head of the tune to close out the show, bringing the sold-out crowd to their feet.