Pure Jazz Magazine covers the music called Jazz from a very unique perspective not seen in most publications.
Classic cultural truths left. It’s transformative music. Also, the conflict between “jazz purists” and “jazz elitists,” will continue forever, just as Herbie noted this unnamed source who seemed full of himself; “One of the most vocal critics…a guy who, at the tender age of nineteen, had bestowed upon himself the mission of saving jazz.” (p221) --Possibilities Herbie Hancock’s diverse music catalog, awards, honors (including honorary degrees from both Grinnell College, and Roosevelt University), need its own museum. There is a notion that musicians should continue to study their craft, beyond the fact that a chord has three basic notes. H e r b i e Hancock will be in history for finding new ways to use common c h o r d s , developing a unique taste for “orchestral accompan i m e n t ” u s i n g what is referred to as “quartal harmony.” Herbie made popular, chords not normally used in Jazz. Something that’s never been done before. “I knew that being in Miles’ quintet meant being a part of a legacy, a bloodline that reach back through some of the greatest JAZZ players in history: Funkadelic, WAR, EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE, Philly/ Motown sounds. R&B, the soulful beats of Motown, and Philadelphia are known as the Mecca of Black talent.” I grew up hearing them-- all the great JAZZ Page 44 - Pure Jazz Magazine MASTERS my father played. He had tapes, and recordings of everyone from Coltrane to Dinah to ‘this young cat name Herbie Hancock. My ears were glued to whatever dad was playing. It was always someone or something we picked up on. JAZZ was a second language in our home, where we heard the masters of the era. I’ll always remember the first time I heard this very soft melody taking off with a horn. It was “Maiden Voyage” (1965). This timeless classic of saxophone, bass, piano, and horns cascading over fierce drum licks, the cohesion of instruments combining together with mellow drums, sounding like a calming cover of someone sailing the seas. Maiden Voyage holds memories. Mr. Jerry, my dad’s childhood friend from Ramparts Street in New Orleans, and dad are the ones responsible for my loving Jazz so much. They felt Herbie’s genius. I remember how they’d hoot, and holler listening to Jazz. My late father owned a barbershop in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The store was divided into a section with barber chairs in the middle and rear. In the front section he’d built a counter and from behind it we sold 45’s and lp’s--Jazz, and R&B music. So, from Clinton Street to the streets of Mogadishu, Herbie Hancock’s music traveled with me, calming inflight jitters with, Quasar, Wandering Spirit Song; one I love. “This young cat named Herbie. Man! can he play that thing! You know, he used to play with Miles.” Yes, we know. Herbie Hancock success with his own groups V.I.S.O.P, 429, Mwandishi, and the Head Hunters reflect the innovative musical style of his mentor, but changed over time. Herbie benefitted from a long list of masters ; among them the great French composer Maurice Ravel. If you listen to Bobbi McFerrin singing the melody an octave higher while making his voice sound like a muted trumpet on Round Midnight –there’s a whole different level of interpretation. Herbie wrote original theme music for: A Soldier’s Story; The Spook Who Sat by the Door, (another great book) and ‘Round Midnight. Between 1986, and 1989 he composed: Jo-Jo-Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, starring Richard Pryor; Colors, with Robert Duvall; Harlem Nights, starring Eddie Murphy and Red Foxx, and Action Jackson. Hancock composed another movie score, Clan of the Cave Bear. He earned these gigs as a result of his excellent reputation for style, composition, arrangements, vision, and team work. In all of the contributions you always hear his distinct style of playing. Herbie also recorded musical themes used on television commercials for Pillsbury, Virginia Slims, Tab, Standard Oil, and others. The anecdote behind “Rockit”’ is fascinating. Herbie wanted “scratching” on his next record. It stretched him. When the demo was being played one person shut it off soon as he heard “it” – ‘scratching’ with this critique, “You’re Herbie Hancock!” Basically saying;” Stay in your space making hit Jazz records. Don’t try anything different!” Once a successful hit formula’s suspected, it’s ALL the industry craves! The condescending executive was handled, but he demonstrates that ole rule when Black talent was used, and abused; they ripped off your songs, chords, lyrics, everything. Thanks to Donald Byrd, Herbie publishes his own music, and therefore has royalties for life. This executive mistook Hancock’s vision, and character. Herbie was the revolution in music. He transformed chords, varied melodies… “stretch-
ing”. No matter, Herbie won a Grammy for Rockit, a knock-out hit, and one of the first fusion jazz videos on MTV after Michael Jackson’s transformative videos. Hip Hop was moving, and Herbie Hancock moved with it, changing the sound as he soaked it all in. Proof brilliant, creative minds don’t sit still. Always searching for the uncharted zones, and using his engineering skills to link the electronic age, with acid jazz in music. It’s also playing well. “The beautiful thing is, music can be like a time machine. One song—the lyrics, the melody, the mood—can take you back to a moment in time like nothing else can. Especially when they debated the ‘electronic Jazz explosion.’ “No matter how many new electric instruments we brought in, the coolest part of any song was always seeing the human brain create patterns and rhythms nobody had ever heard before.” Hancock discloses a rather ironic tale of an heir named Geordie innocently revealing America’s economic inequality as they sought to buy some equipment. Geordie… who looked like a hippie with his long hair, and granny glasses, reached into the pocket of his overalls took out a wad of cash. “I’ll take two,” he said (Buying Fairlights*at $25,000 each) and brought two. I didn’t buy a Fairlight that day, but eventually I got two of them.” The irony of wealth that allows an heir to buy equipment in cash (and did he ever use it?), while a famous Jazz musician had to wait or go to the bank. Hancock will never be a ‘one size fits’ all artist. Gershwin’s World, was recorded in honor of the 100 th Anniversary of George Gershwin’s birth. Produced by Larry Klein, it’s a mix of Jazz classics, and guest singers belting out their tunes; instrumental as well as vocals. It features fellow musician, Chick Corea who joins Herbie for a piano duet of James P. Johnson’s Blueberry Rhyme. Gershwin’s World’s styled a “magnum opus” as a soundtrack defying genre, labels, and categories is rated among the most significant recordings of his prolific career. The GRAMMY award winning masterpiece is a collection of covers Herbie arranged of Joni Mitchell’s melodies. Singers include Tina Turner and Corinne Bailey Rae. It includes guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Dave Holland, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. “I wanted it to be Joni’s songs as heard through my prism, and through the prism of the people who would be performing on the record.” Joni Mitchell’s only contribution, in a bluesy voice I didn’t recognize, is “Summertime”. Summertime’s bluesy, not folk, and she flipped the lyrics, as my ears heard a change. “Your me. Both sides now are totally changed from the original. A rework of Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti” takes the 60’s classics to another dimension. True to his vision of inclusion, international talent Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, takes over “Amelia” bringing her own special flavor. Spoken word poem “The Jungle Line” by Leonard Cohen is awesome, as is “Court and Spark” sung here by Norah Jones. I was mesmerized by Kathleen Battles’ interpretation of “Prelude in C# Minor”. Even with magnificent guests, you still hear Hancock’s distinct piano solo playing melodies. It includes Herbie humbly accepting the GRAM- MY. Hancock acknowledged the giants before him in the “‘Jazz Album of the Year” for the Joni Mitchell covers, “… You know, it’s been forty-three years since the first and only time that a Jazz artist got the Album of the Year Award…. And in doing so, honoring the giants upon whose shoulders I stand--some of whom, like Miles Davis, John Coltrane unquestionably deserved this award in the past.” An OSCAR, 14 GRAMMYS, Kennedy Center Honors, at the White House with our ‘cool’ President, Barack Hussein Obama are all significant in that this superstar is able to get some recognition NOW! It’s unusual for the Several Hancock tunes will forever keep tapping in my head: St. Louis Blues, Featuring Stevie Wonder; the album, Head Hunters; Thrust, and the beautiful, hypnotic, “Butterfly”—soaring sounds as a freedom bird. Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings, Woggle-Waggle, and Oh! Oh! Here He Comes and of course, The Imagine Project, and Possibilities with a mix of John Mayer, (whose jazz interpretations surprised him) Christina Aguilera, Paul Simon, Annie Lennox, Sting, and several other artists Jonny Lang, Damien Rice, Raul Midon, and Trey Anastasio continue the tradition of genius collaborations. “JAZZ is not something you can ever completely master, because it is in the moment and every moment is unique, demanding that you reach inside yourself.” daddy’s good looking, and your momma’s rich…” instead of “Your daddy’s rich, and your momma’s good-looking”…. Variations all the way down to the lyrics. Also, creeping into my ears-- a bluesy solo harmonica of Stevie Wonder on this, and another piece where his lead instrument shines on the W. C. Handy classic, “St. Louis, Blues.” This kind of snuck up on Herbie with two of his several Grammy’s powers that be to recognize you while you’re here. I think it’s great in his lifetime he’s acknowledged, while at the same time, he salutes icons before him. One current mission dear to Herbie Hancock is his ongoing work with the Thelonious Monk Project in honor of the great Jazz icon. He - Pure Jazz Magazine Page 45