Saturday, 26 June 2010

Where’s the jazz? The three faces of Herbie Hancock.

Headed over to the Ottawa Jazz Festival last night for some good times with Herbie Hancock… almost. A fine venue in Confederation Park: free camp chairs, local Beau’s beer, a cool evening and a great atmosphere. We caught, sadly, only the end of the Mike Essoudry Octet who sounded very fine and would have been a fine way to enjoy some time in the park.

The main event, Herbie Hancock, was certainly interesting… I previously knew two faces of Herbie: the old-skool experimental jazzer, playing beautiful soaring piano pieces, and the 70’s jazz-funk wah-wah stuff. I was hoping for more of the former, but ready to experience a bit of the latter too. But wait, there is a new face to Herbie. I don’t know what happened - he got old, he lost his edge, he lost his ear – whatever it was, he is now purveying world-fusion cover-ballads with just a soupcon of jazz hidden underneath. Just image you’re in Starbucks. They play music; they most likely play this music. You can buy the CD there too. He plays the keytar on some of the tracks. Oh dear. There’s a bit of breathy vocal, then some slap bass. Oh dear. There’s some wah-wah, then some synth that sounds like part of the Grange Hill theme tune from the 80’s (IN GOES THE FORKED SAUSAGE - there's also an extended version!). Oh dear. There’s a version of Imagine sung in like foreign innit. Oh dear. There’s an impassioned speech about why can’t we all get along. Oh dear.* And so it went.

So I have learnt: do research before thinking that a jazz legend will be a safe bet for a gig. When people start winning Grammy awards beware. This is why.

(* Of course it’s true, worthwhile and all of that, but cut the cheese please. Or at least play some good jazz afterwards.)

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