At the close of what had already been a distinguished Guitar Night, surprise guest Herbie Hancock sauntered out of the wings, playfully shooed Patrice Rushen off the piano bench and joined guitarists Lee Ritenour, John Scofield and Lionel Loueke in a splendid jam session on his ’60s classic, “Cantaloupe Island.” What made this jam so special was not only the surprise element, but also the exciting clash of differing styles within an octet of heavyweights. It was extraordinary music-making, a model of what the Hollywood Bowl can book in the future if the stars line up properly.
Hancock, typically audacious and complex, shot off sparks when trading fours with Rushen, who had moved over to the synthesizer. The edgy staccato of Brian Bromberg’s bass rubbed shoulders with Richard Bona’s smoother West African funk on the same instrument; Ritenour was the polished eclectic intermediary between Scofield’s darting flurries and Loueke’s West African dignity.
Loueke’s international trio Gilfema — which sports a Swedish bassist, Massimo Biolcati, and a Hungarian drummer, Ferenc Nemeth — created its own complicated chemistry, with lots of interplay within just three tunes that evolved constantly. It was a return visit to the Bowl for Loueke, an up-and-comer from Benin in West Africa, who scatted along with his playing in several odd timbres and made liberal use of electronic multiplications of his guitar and voice.
Show executed a smooth transition to Scofield’s trio — another hotbed of interplay but this time, more geared to the North American continent in rhythm and idiom. Scofield also had top-notch cohorts — bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart, his sparring partners on his absorbing 2004 Verve live album “EnRoute” — and he took them all over the continent, from the chugging funk of a new, politically pointed tune, “Heck of a Job” (dedicated to New Orleans), to Chet Atkins-tinged country in the form of the Charlie Rich hit “Behind Closed Doors.”
Ritenour is also playing in several ballparks at once these days — alternating between several electric and acoustic/electric guitars, reaching back to his fondness for Jobim (“Stone Flower”) and Wes Montgomery (“Boss City”), trading Bromberg for Bona in mid-set and making diverse use of ever-adaptable drummer Alex Acuna. His set began to founder a bit when it strayed too long into some generic L.A. smooth jazz material, but he remained the consummate, tasty pro guitarist whatever the style.