Music News & Reviews

Rare casino sighting has jazz great Herbie Hancock at the MontBleu

Herbie Hancock performs on the stage of the Auditorium Stravinski during the 51st Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, on July 2, 2017. Hancock, considered one of jazz’s great innovators, performs in Lake Tahoe on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.
Herbie Hancock performs on the stage of the Auditorium Stravinski during the 51st Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, on July 2, 2017. Hancock, considered one of jazz’s great innovators, performs in Lake Tahoe on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. AP

There is a bit of offbeat casting in the current movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” That’s Herbie Hancock, the great jazz pianist, as the Defense Minister. It isn’t his first movie (“Miles Ahead,” “Indecent Proposal,” and he won an Academy Award for scoring “ ’Round Midnight”), but it’s an unlikely place for him to be spotted, which ironically is pretty much in keeping with his career during which he’s frequently gone into unexpected territory.

Hancock shows up Saturday evening at the MontBleu in Lake Tahoe, playing a venue where he’s always been rare, the casino showroom. Back in 2007, he showed up at the Grand Sierra as part of Reno’s July Artown celebration, but other than that he’s been nonexistent in northern Nevada.

Hancock was graced with a musical touch from his birth. He was named by his parents in Chicago after the great crooner and movie star Herb Jeffries (“Flamingo”). He was inspired by the Hi-Los; he began playing with Donald Byrd and Coleman Hawkins; his first album “Takin’ Off” yielded the song “Watermelon Man” and caught the attention of Miles Davis for whom he became a member of the legendary Second Great Quartet.

It is impossible to overstate his impact on jazz and pop. He helped develop exciting new rhythmic patterns (“Time, No Changes”). He scored for Michelangelo Antonioni (“Blow Up”). He wrote the soundtrack for “Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert.”

His three “Mwandishi (Swahili for “writer”) albums are pivotal in the history of electronic jazz; his instrumental “Rockit” was reputedly the first jazz hip-hop song; and he was presented with a Kennedy Center honor in 2013. This is an exciting booking (8 p.m.; $50-$70; Ticketmaster).

Tonight, the showroom at the MontBleu will feature an entirely different atmosphere (some of which is likely to be palpable) when Cheech and Chong perform (8 p.m.; $49.95-$59.95).

Ramon Ayala brings his dynamic accordion for an evening of Norteno and Conjunto music (plenty to choose from; he’s put out 113 albums) at Thunder Valley Saturday. Chiquis Rivera opens (7 p.m.; $49.95-$179.95; thundervalleyresort.com).

Young the Giant celebrate their third alternative-music studio album with their “Home of the Strange Tour,” named for it, Saturday at the Grand Sierra in Reno with the Cold War Kids opening (7:30 p.m.; $36.50; grandsierraresort.com).

Historic Virginia City, Nev., will host a rodeo this Saturday and Sunday. “The Way It Was Rodeo” may not be the biggest event on the circuit, but is produced by legendary Cotton Rosser who brings the Reno Rodeo in every June, and it features most of the usual events, such as bronc riding, trick roping and barrel racing.

This year, Saturday also will host the first Cowgirl Saloon Crawl, with crawlers getting specialty libations, discounts on drinks, and a rodeo ticket (designated drivers receive free soft drinks and swag – Virginia City has never been noted for its sobriety). The Virginia City Arena and Fairgrounds feature a 100-mile view of the town and valleys (1-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; $18, plus some premium seating available (VisitVirginiaCityNV.com).

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