It was the opening night of what had originally been planned as a four-day residency for Wayne Shorter and his quartet at SFJAZZ, and the absence of the 85-year-old jazz legend, who canceled due to illness, hung in the air.
Then longtime friend Herbie Hancock got on the microphone.
"May Wayne have a happy, long life. This guy's amazing—he's been through so much health-wise, and now he's in the middle of writing an opera!" Hancock said. "Can any of you do that?"
And so the retooled residency—with Shorter's enduring group of Brian Blade, Danilo Pérez and John Patitucci backing various luminaries influenced by the saxophonist and composer—became a celebration of Shorter's music.
That was no more evident then on Thursday night: Hancock (who'd suggested the show go on as a tribute when Shorter fell ill) traded keytar licks with trumpeter Terence Blanchard, dueted on piano with Pérez, and supplied atmospheric synthesizers with Kendrick Lamar collaborator Terrace Martin on compositions like "Nefertiti" and "Visitor From Nowhere."