Venue: The Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, Manitoba
The first act, the Kenny Garrett Quartet, were brilliant, straight-ahead jazz. During their first number, which lasted almost 20 minutes, Garrett wailed away on the sax like his life depended on it. After what seemed like 10 minutes, he finally let up and passed the solo-spotlight onto someone else. I thought he was going to drop dead from playing so intense, for so long. Garrett's drummer, the dread-locked Jamire Williams, was incredible, and the bass player and piano player, Nat Reeves and Benito Gonzalez, were no slouches, either. Apart from being able to play straight-ahead jazz like a runaway locomotive, Garrett and Gonzalez reduced the speed considerably for some beautiful ballads from Korea and Japan, featuring Garrett on the soprano sax.
Throughout the show, Garrett kept on beckoning the audience to make more noise or to clap along. There was so much of that going on that I began to wish he would just tone it down a tad and let the audience participate as they saw fit. There was no way that anyone would mistake the electrified crowd as being docile and ready to nod off. Especially not with the huge anticipation of seeing the legendary Herbie Hancock. Garrett's performance was as world-class as it gets.
I'm not crazy about the funky or electronic Herbie Hancock, much preferring his straight-ahead acoustic work. Unfortunately for me, Hancock's performance was a liberal overview of his career and it included that which I do not like and even more new pop material that I could have done without. Still, the audience was polite and cheered perhaps more than I would have. Given his musical pedigree, they gave him a standing ovation when he first walked on stage, which was appropriate and warmly appreciated.
They opened up with the funky tune "Actual Proof" from the early 1970's, followed by an experimental collaboration between guitarist Lionel Loueke's "Seventeens" and Hancock's 1962 smash, "Watermelon Man." While artistically inventive, it didn't quite interest me. Later on, Loueke had the stage all to himself as the band took a break and the African-born guitarist played, tapped and mouthed percussive sounds in an interesting but again, out of place, performance.