Herbie Hancock review – still seeking the new after 50 years of jazz curiosity

Barbican, London

Band featuring Terence Blanchard and drummer Jaylen Petinaud is firmly rooted in the present

“I did a lot of stuff in the 70s,” Herbie Hancock remarks midway through the first of two Barbican performances. He’s not wrong. 2023 marks 50 years since his album Head Hunters, a landmark moment for jazz as another of its acoustic vanguard signalled a shift in sound. More remarkable is Hancock’s journey in that decade: completed in just four years, Hancock’s transition from Mwandishi to Thrust – via Crossings, Sextant and Head Hunters – is surely one of jazz history’s strongest runs of albums.

Hancock opens with what he calls “hors d’oeuvres” from the 70s and beyond: glutinous textures and effects-laden improvisation from the Mwandishi days, the later funk-infused fusion, the hip-hop hit Rockit and a low-slung take on Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, all twisted towards today.

At the Barbican Centre on 29 July.

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