Herbie Hancock plays the keytar while Lionel Loueke, left, and James Genus, right, perform at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (Dr. Rishi Deka | Daily Utah Chronicle)

At the start of his band’s concert, Herbie Hancock noted that he “feels like a refugee from Mars, loves science fiction, and contemplates moving to another area.” This simple quote was a harbinger of the idiosyncratic Sunday night that followed at Red Butte Garden on August 20, 2017. After stating his feelings, Hancock then declared that “my wife is here and she would kill me for talking too much tonight!” True to his laconic words, the two hour set engendered a triumphantly transcendental feeling.

The moving music included soothe saxophone solos, gutting guitar, peaceful piano progressions, and deafening drums. Drawing on a myriad of genres that encompassed jazz, funk, electronic, and classical, the eclectic instrumentation was marked by abrupt changes in volume and tempo. The music was occasionally sprinkled with chanting, a nod to Hancock’s spiritual practice of reciting the Mahayana Buddhist chant ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’ every day.

The aforementioned chant, from the Lotus Sutra, emphasizes that all individuals are capable of Buddhahood. The concoction created by Hancock on Sunday night undoubtedly inspired a feeling that everyone is capable of enlightenment. In nod to their unique spirit, the band ended with a jazz funk encore that got the jovial crowd dancing even in nirvana.

Rishi Deka
Rishi Deka is a Utah Press Association award-winning photo/multimedia journalist. He is also a research academic with a PhD at the University of Utah.

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