An eclectic ensemble of Charleston musicians pay tribute to legendary pianist Herbie Hancock Jan. 22 at LO-Fi Brewing | photo by Ruta Smith

Legendary pianist Herbie Hancock has covered a lot of ground — and filled in a lot of spaces — between his beginnings as a child prodigy and his current role as an elder statesman of the jazz community. To honor Hancock’s enormous contributions to music history and pop culture, an ensemble of Lowcountry musicians led by saxophonist Mike Quinn presents a tribute concert Jan. 22 at LO-Fi Brewing. 

“I love to play tributes in general,” Quinn told the City Paper. “I think of it as study, a chance to dive deep into an artist that I already love and dissect their music, bring it to a new, maybe different life within our own collective voice as interpreters, and hopefully do some justice to the original intent.” 

Hancock became a significant player on the scene upon cutting his first solo album for major record label Blue Note back in 1962. And it was shortly thereafter that he received an impactful job offer from Miles Davis, inviting the young keyboardist to join forces with his visionary group.

Hancock’s stint with Davis’ ensemble is where he cemented his reputation for greatness. It’s also where he begrudgingly agreed to experiment with electronic instruments, as Davis had begun shapeshifting a bit at the time, hoping to appeal to a more rock ‘n’ roll crowd with his newly developed blend of acid jazz. 

By all accounts, that expansive era provided Hancock with a sense of adventure that would forever alter his subsequent career trajectory. After handing off his duties in The Miles Davis Quintet to Chick Corea, Hancock continued blazing his own unconventional trail, both as a solo artist and as a bandleader, for the duration of the 1960s and beyond.

During the decades to follow, Hancock remained prolific, releasing many significant LPs, restlessly bouncing back and forth between a variety of genres and sounds, and often turning up at the most unexpected places. 

At one point, Hancock even composed the score to Bill Cosby’s animated television special Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert. Hancock also had a big hit in the early days of MTV with his ubiquitous single, “Rockit.” 

That sort of musical meandering is precisely what appeals most to Quinn about Hancock. “One of the coolest things about Herbie, possibly more than almost any musician, especially of the 20th century, and especially when it came to his approach to the keyboard or synthesizers: He was always a leader. He seamlessly entered each decade with its new technology, new vibes, new attitudes and dove in to create some of the most fundamental sounds to resonate beyond them,” Quinn said.

Hancock’s decidedly disparate body of work has also included somewhat surprising artistic collaborations with the likes of Sting, Trey Anastasio, Annie Lennox, Bobby McFerrin, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and others. 

So it makes perfect sense that the upcoming Charleston tribute concert features an eclectic, if unlikely, assortment of local luminaries that are proud to be in the Herbie Hancock brotherhood.

“I think every musician loves Herbie Hancock,” Quinn said. “I mean that. If they call themselves a musician and don’t love Herbie Hancock, then … I don’t even know. It’s hard to finish that statement without being mean. What I am trying to say is that it was easy to find people around here that love and respect Herbie as much as I do.” 

Joining Quinn and his sax for this outing is Dave Grimm on guitar, Stuart White on drums, Tim Khayat on bass and Nick Brewer on keys. Playing through Hancock’s songbook with these guys clearly makes Quinn’s heart happy, but he is also stoked about the venue itself. 

“LO-Fi is a bit of an undefined space,” Quinn said. “It’s like a liquid that takes the shape of its container … but it absorbs the vibe of the sound within it. This show definitely dives deeper into the funk and R&B side of Herbie Hancock, so that should be a lot of fun for all of us.”

Mike Quinn presents: A Tribute to Herbie Hancock at LO-Fi Brewing Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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