Herbie Hancock
w/ the New Deal

King Cat Theater, Sun Mar 17, $40

Rapper Q-Tip once described the black condition in this way: "We may be poor, but we're rich in soul." By soul, Q-Tip meant both music and what 18th-century German metaphysician Kant called "the thing in itself." So, the black situation was one of both extreme poverty in the material world and excessive wealth in the immaterial world of soul/music. In a way, one can read black success in music as a symptom of the unremitting disappointments encountered in real life. All the desires that are repressed by racism in the world of things are released with great creative energy into the aural realm of the will.

Herbie Hancock's new CD, Future 2 Future, is an excellent example of this material-to-immaterial transformation. At the heart of the CD's project is the idea of a black technology--as Afro-Swiss DJ Goo called it--or, better yet, black secret technology--as Afro-Brit A Guy Called Gerald (who appears on Future 2 Future) called it. In the real world, there's no black technology, because there are so few black scientists. But in black music you will find, in soul form, advanced and abundant varieties of black technology.

Critic Kodwo Eshun calls this practice (the sonic representation of black technologies, that is) sonic fiction. Though Hancock seems one of the least likely of the late-jazzers to become preoccupied with sonic fiction, as he descended from an elegant line of jazz pianists (Bud Powell, Bill Evans), he has produced electro-funk with great success, as exemplified by his 1983 hit, "Rockit." Also, he has never been reprimanded for his futuristic experiments outside of the jazz tradition. Or at least he wasn't reprimanded in the way Miles Davis was for exploring pop music late in his career.

Future 2 Future is great. It utilizes a lot of drum and bass, and not as a gimmick, but as a means by which to imagine a world that is run by brilliant black scientists.