Two Hotshots: Herbie Hancock with the Wayne Shorter Trio plus guests

Posted on in Art + Soul by Roy Strassman

(Jan. 5 @ SFJazz), and the Azar Lawrence
Experience at Yoshi’s (Jan. 28, @Yoshi’s).

Life depends on inspiration, and both these performances provided a perfect opportunity to breathe it in. Can you believe that Herbie Hancock actually subbed for Wayne Shorter—out with an illness—so that the show could go on? The band was comprised of Shorter’s usual teammates, Danilo Peréz on keys, John Pattitucci on bass, and the ever-astounding Brian Blade on the drum set—in addition to guests: trumpeter and bandleader Terrence Blanchard, and Terrace Martin on occasional tenor sax and vocal effects.

The two-hour set consisted almost exclusively of Shorter’s numerous excellent compositions including his signature “Footprints,” “Nefertiti,” and “Sanctuary.” Herbie delivered the coup de grâce when while playing Shorter’s “Supernova,” he strapped a melodium around his neck and shot the groove into hyperspace, wailing luminously all the way.

The Azar Lawrence Experience was its own celestial comet as it descended to Earth for a recent one-nighter at Yoshi’s. As an heir apparent to the early ’60s Coltrane legacy, Azar was the tenor/soprano player McCoy Tyner used after ‘Trane’s passing. Azar, now based in L.A., has crafted a distinct-sounding octet comprised of choice L.A. thoroughbreds. Sartorially understated in a hip dark three-piece suit with opaque darker rectangular shades and a patterned black leather Egyptian Kufi cap, Azar spontaneously onnected with the enthusiastic near-sellout Monday night crowd—perhaps partially obscuring his estimable skills as a composer/arranger and incognito spiritual master. His engaging set not only fulfilled his stated mission of bringing love, peace, and joy, it also left one with the well-sated feeling of having consumed a five-star repast of supremely healthy food but with just the right juicy thigh of hot Southern fried chicken.


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