Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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Herbie Hancock crosses over at the Ottawa Jazz Festival

Herbie Hancock and Lionel Louecke share a lighter moment during a pause for introductions at their main stage performance at the Ottawa Jazz Festival. photo ©Brett Delmage,2010Herbie Hancock started out with jazz and crossed over to pop during his Friday evening concert at the Ottawa Jazz Festival, but the audience enthusiastically stayed with him.

The band opened with jazz, including Hancock classics like Watermelon Man (in which Hancock played his keytar – keyboards slung like a guitar). Then came one of the highlights of the show: a reprise of Hancock's The River album, in which vocalist Kristina Train sang Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark, in a lower register than Joni but with equivalent contrast between joy and hopelessness. The band (Hancock on piano, Lionel Louecke on guitar, Greg Phillinganes on keyboards and vocals, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and Tal Wilkenfeld on bass) added fine texture underneath without ever distracting from the impact of Train's voice.

About an hour into the concert, Hancock moved to pieces from his just-released The Imagine Project, and the musical focus moved towards pop and world music. It started with his version of John Lennon's Imagine, featuring a well-tuned duet between Train and Phillinganes, and then moved to further pop covers and world beat-influenced pieces. Each had a clear message of promoting world peace and understanding, which Hancock had said right at the beginning of the concert was what he was trying to do. He said he was doing it through music, because that was his skill, but he urged the audience to do the same through whatever they're good at.


While OJS publisher Brett Delmage stayed for the entire concert, editor Alayne McGregor didn't want to miss French bassist Hubert Dupont at the NAC Fourth Stage. Despite the competition from Hancock and Bill Frisell, Dupont T acquired a respectable crowd for a fine 90 minutes of modern jazz.

Given Dupont's studies with Dave Holland, it wasn't surprising that several pieces opened with extended bass solos, but they were interesting and varied, particularly the last piece in which he let his bass strings go slightly slack for a different sound. And he left lots of room for extended solos by alto saxophonist Denis Guivarc’h, pianist Yvan Robillard, and Chander Sardjoe, who had a generally light but very exact taste in drumming.

    – Alayne McGregor