North Central College - Naperville, IL

A Master at Work

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Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock joined the list of legendary artists to perform in Wentz Concert Hall when he delivered an eclectic mix of jazz standards and technological wizardry on Oct. 29.

The performance was a rare solo show by Hancock, who performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11 and who joined the band of jazz great Miles Davis at age 23.

“There’s a reason I waited until I was 71 years old to do a solo tour,” Hancock told the audience at the start of his show. “I like the interaction of playing with a band, the collaboration.”

He then sat down at a grand piano and played Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” kicking off a 90-minute set that built in intensity and finished with a flourish. The evening included a performance of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” and several of Hancock’s own compositions, most notably “Sonrisa” and “Cantaloupe Island.”

Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich wrote, “You have to admire an artist of Herbie Hancock's stature taking as bold a risk as he did Saturday night at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville. Seated alone on stage, Hancock dared to present nearly two hours of uninterrupted music-making with no bassist, drummer, horns, anything. Just one man and his Fazioli grand piano, plus a stack of computer equipment cranking out pre-programmed sound loops whenever Hancock touched a screen, flipped a switch or turned a dial.”

By the end of the show, Hancock was making use of electronic keyboards that produced the sort of sounds that propelled him to the top of the charts in the 1980s with the hit “Rockit” from the album “Future Shock.” He had the audience clapping along as he strode across the Wentz Concert Hall stage with a keyboard/synthesizer strapped across his back.

In between songs, Hancock spoke to the audience, telling concert-goers about the songs he was performing or the instruments he was using.

“I think this is the first time I’ve played in Naperville,” he said. “Is there a reason I haven’t been asked to play here before?”

The answer may be that until the Wentz Concert Hall opened in 2008, there wasn’t a hall in Naperville worthy of such a world-renowned master.