The "Directions In Music: Our Times Tour" consisting of saxophonist Michael Brecker, pianist Herbie Hancock and trumpeter Roy Hargrove serves as a testament to what jazz music should really be about. Not only did the concert highlight the influences of three phenomenal musicians, the performance also delved into the progressive path their music has taken over time. Other aspects of the show explored the diversity of jazz as a contemporary offset. In the minds of most who critically follow and study jazz, Brecker, Hancock and Hargrove are giants in their chosen field of endeavor. The tour was billed as an opportunity to explore the influences of McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea and a host of other notable composers who have contributed musically. In addition, this was jazz at its best with three of the genre's premier musicians under one roof. The completely sold-out performance witnessed the partial end of an otherwise slow year for jazz as a whole; plus, by providing this type of entertainment, a message was received loud and clear. If good quality jazz is brought to Houston, connoisseurs will come out in mass. The concert also provided a window of opportunity to experience something more than too often presented smooth instrumentals.
Due to the nature of this performance, very few members of the audience knew what to expect. This was due to the presence of Herbie Hancock. During his 40-plus years as a jazz musician, arranger and composer, Herbie has been on the cutting-edge of straight ahead, fusion, contemporary and other styles of jazz. So much so, he has often been viewed as too far to the left; however, the sheer nature of his talent has consistently been immense. When Michael, Herbie, Roy, drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and bassist Scott Colley walked on stage, the applause was resoundingly tremendous. As quiet took hold of The Wortham Theater, the first sound heard was an unexpected buzz of recorded computer-generated music few in the audience could disseminate. The sound they were hearing could have easily been classified as something from a sci-fi movie or another dimension. Taken by surprise, the gallery of jazz aficionados anxiously awaited the next wave of progression. Surely this was not going to be just another excursion into a sound activated harmonic experiment that some had experienced at the 2004 Playboy Jazz Festival. But as the level of heightened awareness intensified, the more traditional sounds of drums, acoustic bass, saxophone and trumpet burst through the maze of Herbie's electronic chord variations. What was thought to be a fusion fueled performance, soon began to take on the vernacular of identifiable compositions written by three of jazz's future legends. Michael and Roy alternated with intuitive notes of their own behind Hancock's piano dynamics. Each provided solos filled with spontaneity and improvised rhythms, which were augmented by the percussive backdrop drumming of Teri Lyne Carrington and Scott Colley's labor intensive bass techniques. For more than 100-minutes, the five musicians held an impromptu jam session. Overwhelmed by the intensity of what was being presented musically, some in the audience expected an intermission, but no such event occurred. During the performance, strategically placed speakers surrounded the interior of the theater with an unprecedented sound experience, something well beyond stereo. Herbie Hancock description of the music was jazz in "Surround Sound," something often heard while watching a movie in a theater. For the most part, this was something never experienced before.
The overall significance of the type of sound heard during the concert was every instrument was prominent and distinctive. To bear this out, Teri Lyne Carrington is by far one of jazz's premier drummers. In surround sound she could be heard hitting the hottest licks imaginable, while Scott Colley's bass reverberated with refined exuberance. Together their wall of sound supported the tremendous onslaught of notes generated by the three headliners. Herbie, Michael and Roy gave each other room to literally cram the room with sound. One cut in particular entitled "Pinnochio" by Wayne Shorter highlighted Michael Brecker on a most unique sounding apparatus called an "EWI, otherwise known as an "Electronic Wind Instrument." Brecker's play on notes generated various sound effects, oboe, eastern sounding flute and piano chords that emphasized Shorter's composition as a fantasy waiting to be translated. Throughout the entire "Directions In Music: Our Times" Tour, the depth and breadth of talent that was provided by Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock and Roy Hargrove was a testament to all the musicians who preceded them. The group's stop in Houston was the end of a twenty-five city tour that had for all practical purposes generated rave reviews at every stop they made. In 2002, an album entitled 'Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall' highlighting the music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis was released on the Universal Label. Recorded by Brecker, Hancock and Hargrove, the album ultimately won a Grammy. That began the partnership that has re-visited the works of Paco Pastorious as well as a range of composers including those already mentioned. The group's stop in Houston for Da Camera's "Rebels and Visionaries" Artistic Season was everything it was billed to be. In my mind, this concert was definitely a unique "excursion into sight and sound."