With a backdrop showcasing the Hollywood Hills and a history of performances by musical legends, the Hollywood Bowl is without a doubt a magical place. This week (August 23, 2023), the enchanted outdoor amphitheater added another legendary performance to its vast pedigree, when Herbie Hancock led a star-studded concert in honor of his best friend, and fellow musical titan, Wayne Shorter.

Herbie Hancock Hollywood Bowl

Herbie Hancock at the Hollywood Bowl by Fara Sosa

Herbie Hancock Hollywood Bowl

The show got off to an adventurous start with a band featuring members who played on Wayne’s final recording – Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival. The band included bassist vocalist Esperanza Spalding, drummer Teri Lyne Carrington, pianist Leo Genovese and Kamasi Washington. They played an inspired spacey set which highlighted each player’s incredible musicianship and technique.

After this performance, Herbie Hancock came out onstage to greet the crowd, accompanied by his grandson Max and Max’s best friend Drew – Wayne’s grandson – how damn cute and appropriate. Herbie and Wayne first connected in 1962 at a Donald Byrd recording session. Over the next fifty years they played together through different eras of music, starting in the early 1960s with Miles Davis and on through the funk era of the 1970s and 80s. They won a Grammy together in the 1990s for their album 1+1.

 Herbie Hancock Kamasi Washington (on right), and Lionel Loueke (on left); photo by Farah Sosa; courtesy of the Hollywood Bowl

Herbie Hancock Wayne Shorter

The two men formed a bond so deep and so personal it could always be heard in the music. It was also evident in the way Herbie spoke about their friendship on stage at the Bowl. “Wayne Shorter was my best friend, and he was ready for his rebirth. As it is with every human being, he is irreplaceable. He was able to reach the pinnacle of excellence as a saxophonist, composer, orchestrator, and he even composed a masterful opera. I miss being around him and his special Wayne-isms, but I carry his spirit within my heart always.”

What followed over the two-part, 13-song concert was a musical tribute to Wayne Shorter, hosted by his best friend, featuring an all-star lineup of guests. Each musician had a special connection to Shorter. The show was structured to spotlight Shorter’s career highlights. Sets featuring compositions from his Quartet, Weather Report, and his collaborations with Joni Mitchell, Milton Nascimento, Carlos Santana, and Miles Davis.

Herbie Hancock Hollywood Bowl

The legendary Ron Carter takes center stage with Herbie Hancock

Musical Tribute to Wayne Shorter

It was a truly remarkable night of music featuring a diverse, multi-generational group of musicians. Performances included guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding, drum dynamos Cindy Blackman Santana as well as Terri Lyne Carrington, Marcus Miller, Terrance Blanchard, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana, and the legendary bassist Ron Carter. In 1963, Carter joined Miles Davis’s second quintet which included Hancock, Shorter and drummer Tony Williams. His appearance and performance awed the crowd.

Joni Mitchell

The biggest applause of the night was reserved for Joni Mitchell. Her unadvertised appearance at the end of the first half marked her return to the Bowl stage for the first time in decades. Accompanied by Hancock, saxophonist Chris Potter, and members of Shorter’s Quartet, she played a deeply moving rendition of “Circle Game.” Her 1966 classic about the wonders of youth and the wisdom of age earned two standing ovations!

Herbie Hancock Hollywood Bowl

Herbie Hancock Celebrates Wayne Shorter, an All Star Performance; photo by Farah Sosa; courtesy of the Hollywood Bowl

Weather Report

For me the show’s highlight was the three-song salute to Weather Report. This pioneering jazz fusion band Shorter was co-led with keyboardist Joe Zawinul. For this set, the band featured Hancock on piano, Blackman Santana on drums, and Marcus Miller on electric bass. It also featured former Weather Report percussionist Alex Acuña. In addition, the stellar horn section of trumpeter Terence Blanchard and saxophonists Potter and Washington filled out the band. There were many incredible solos among the ensemble as they dug into three tunes – “Palladium,” “A Remark You Made” and the standard “Birdland” from the band’s masterpiece Heavy Weather.

Wayne Shorter would have been 90 this week. Herbie Hancock and the band did an extraordinary job honoring his music and legacy. It was certainly a show for the ages! We should all be so lucky to have a friend like Herbie, who loves us as much as he loved Wayne!

There will never be another Wayne Shorter!

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