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Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock will always be one of the most revered and controversial figures in jazz -- just as his employer/mentor Miles Davis was when he was alive. Unlike Miles, who pressed ahead relentlessly and never looked back until near the very end, Hancock has cut a zigzagging forward path, shuttling between almost every development in electronic and acoustic jazz and R&B over the last third of the 20th century and into the 21st. Though grounded in Bill Evans and able to absorb blues, funk, gospel, and even modern classical influences, Hancock's piano and keyboard voices are entirely his own, with their own urbane harmonic and complex, earthy rhythmic signatures -- and young pianists cop his licks constantly. Having studied engineering and professing to love gadgets and buttons, Hancock was perfectly suited for the electronic age; he was one of the earliest champions of the Rhodes electric piano and Hohner clavinet, and would field an ever-growing collection of synthesizers and computers on his electric dates. Yet his love for the grand piano never waned, and despite his peripatetic activities all around the musical map, his piano style continued to evolve into tougher, ever more complex forms. He is as much at home trading riffs with a smoking funk band as he is communing with a world-class post-bop rhythm section -- and that drives purists on both sides of the fence up the wall.

Having taken up the piano at age seven, Hancock quickly became known as a prodigy, soloing in the first movement of a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony at the age of 11. After studies at Grinnell College, Hancock was invited by Donald Byrd in 1961 to join his group in New York City, and before long, Blue Note offered him a solo contract. His debut album, Takin' Off, took off indeed after Mongo Santamaria covered one of the album's songs, "Watermelon Man." In May 1963, Miles Davis asked him to join his band in time for the Seven Steps to Heaven sessions, and he remained there for five years, greatly influencing Miles' evolving direction, loosening up his own style, and, upon Miles' suggestion, converting to the Rhodes electric piano. In that time span, Hancock's solo career also blossomed on Blue Note, pouring forth increasingly sophisticated compositions like "Maiden Voyage," "Cantaloupe Island," "Goodbye to Childhood," and the exquisite "Speak Like a Child." He also played on many East Coast recording sessions for producer Creed Taylor and provided a groundbreaking score to Michelangelo Antonioni's film Blow Up, which gradually led to further movie assignments.

Having left the Davis band in 1968, Hancock recorded an elegant funk album, Fat Albert Rotunda, and in 1969 formed a sextet that evolved into one of the most exciting, forward-looking jazz-rock groups of the era. Now deeply immersed in electronics, Hancock added the synthesizer of Patrick Gleeson to his Echoplexed, fuzz-wah-pedaled electric piano and clavinet, and the recordings became spacier and more complex rhythmically and structurally, creating its own corner of the avant-garde. By 1970, all of the musicians used both English and African names (Herbie's was Mwandishi). Alas, Hancock had to break up the band in 1973 when it ran out of money, and having studied Buddhism, he concluded that his ultimate goal should be to make his audiences happy.

The next step, then, was a terrific funk group whose first album, Head Hunters, with its Sly Stone-influenced hit single, "Chameleon," became the biggest-selling jazz LP up to that time. Now handling all of the synthesizers himself, Hancock's heavily rhythmic comping often became part of the rhythm section, leavened by interludes of the old urbane harmonies. Hancock recorded several electric albums of mostly superior quality in the '70s, followed by a wrong turn into disco around the decade's end. In the meantime, Hancock refused to abandon acoustic jazz. After a one-shot reunion of the 1965 Miles Davis Quintet (Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, with Freddie Hubbard sitting in for Miles) at New York's 1976 Newport Jazz Festival, they went on tour the following year as V.S.O.P. The near-universal acclaim of the reunions proved that Hancock was still a whale of a pianist; that Miles' loose mid-'60s post-bop direction was far from spent; and that the time for a neo-traditional revival was near, finally bearing fruit in the '80s with Wynton Marsalis and his ilk. V.S.O.P. continued to hold sporadic reunions through 1992, though the death of the indispensable Williams in 1997 cast much doubt as to whether these gatherings would continue.

Hancock continued his chameleonic ways in the '80s: scoring an MTV hit in 1983 with the scratch-driven, proto-industrial single "Rockit" (accompanied by a striking video); launching an exciting partnership with Gambian kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso that culminated in the swinging 1986 live album Jazz Africa; doing film scores; and playing festivals and tours with the Marsalis brothers, George Benson, Michael Brecker, and many others. After his 1988 techno-pop album, Perfect Machine, Hancock left Columbia (his label since 1973), signed a contract with Qwest that came to virtually nothing (save for A Tribute to Miles in 1992), and finally made a deal with Polygram in 1994 to record jazz for Verve and release pop albums on Mercury. Well into a youthful middle age, Hancock's curiosity, versatility, and capacity for growth showed no signs of fading, and in 1998 he issued Gershwin's World. His curiosity with the fusion of electronic music and jazz continued with 2001's Future 2 Future, but he also continued to explore the future of straight-ahead contemporary jazz with 2005's Possibilities. An intriguing album of jazz treatments of Joni Mitchell compositions called River: The Joni Letters was released in 2007. In 2010 Hancock released his The Imagine Project album, which was recorded in seven countries and featured a host of collaborators, including Dave Matthews, Anoushka Shankar, Jeff Beck, the Chieftains, John Legend, India.Arie, Seal, P!nk, Juanes, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Chaka Khan, K'NAAN, Wayne Shorter, James Morrison, and Lisa Hannigan. He was also named Creative Chair for the New Los Angeles Philharmonic. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Head Hunters

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Track List: Sextant

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Track List: Crossings

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Track List: Inventions & Dimensions

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Track List: Ready Or Not (Radio Single)

Comments

@edmundalc
Smell the funk? You can feel it in your soul, you can SEE the funk. A lot more than smell, my friend.
Headhunters. . . t i m e l e s s !
Can you smell the funk?!
Musical Genius. My school's Jazz Band played Chameleon when I was in 7th grade. I played Bari Sax, and it instantly was my favorite Big Band tune.
PEOPLE MUSIC, Classic Hancock x
BUTTERFLY is soooooo funky !!! A true classic with BOUNDLESS FLOW :) x
THE SEED OF MILES DAVIS....... . . AND SO THE LEGACY CONTINUES... . .
HerbieHerbie H e r b i e H e r b i e H e r b i e ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
What would music have been without YOU???
............ r h e t o r i c a l question.... . . . . . . . . . .
I'll never forget Herbie Hancock came to Mercer Junior High School 1970 in Seattle Washington and played. In The auditorium
How can you NOT like Herbie Hancock? Seems practically impossible.
Head Hunters made me get into jazz and also made me into a musical elitist. And that enables me to look for god stuff all the time.
Heartbeat is such a funky song :) x
"HEARTBEAT" is intellectual funk :) x
Haven't heard this since I was a kid
Purists are soooooo self ~ limiting.... . . . I just don't get them at all!!!
HERBIE HANCOCK FOR PRESIDENT of the UNIVERSE (known AND unknown..... ) !!!!!
ROCK(IT) ON, HERBIE!!!!! :-D :-D :-D
LOVE THIS!!
It's so sad that Jazz purist radio stations don't play the fusion music of Herbie, Miles, Weather Report, Return To Forever, Mahivishnu, etc. All of these musicians(ex c e p t for John McLaughlin) played Progressive Jazz and like Miles moved on to Spontaneous Improvisatio n a l compositions . Now I can see why Yusef Lateef left Progressive Jazz for World Music many decades ago. I thought that the Jazz tent was large enough to encompass all genres of Jazz. Purist Jazz radio stations don't agree with me.
This gets me really ready to see the Doctor today and raise some holy hell for sure.
Great artist! Great music! Fellow world citizen,u r loved so much! God bless u always, thanx 4 tha jamz!
1. Kiss your left hand
2. Say your crushes name
3. Close your hand
4. Say a week day
5. Say your name
6. Post this on 15 songs and your crush will tell you he likes you and ask you out on the day you said
Wow, Mr. Hancock you were making music before I was born. Mr. Hancock congrats on the Honor's Award, Snoop is right you did introduce hip hop and took it to another level. There's a song that you did back in the 80's use to hear it in Boston all the time, once in Atlanta, but I can't find it, you composed so many songs, but I think it's the Ready or Not. Thanks for sharing you music.
Dont read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on atleast 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lover's name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works!

Congrats Herbie! You deserve an honor for the way you arrange and play those keys on your boards. Jazz 4 ever!
Herbie cockhand
Kennedy Center Honors Gala 9:00 PM Sunday 12/29 on CBS.
Herbi (the man) Hancock.. We go way back.. luv his stuff... ;-)
WATERMELON MAN...way back..Yago..
claricentp91 7
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shawnnavuz71 1
Guys if you want to make a few extra bucks per day using your computer go to BLUDOS.COM You can take surveys for cash there. You can just try it. It's FREE.
Wow! I recognized Tedeschi's voice, but was surprised by Derek Trucks slide guitar. Awesome stuff. Herbie does some great work on When Love Comes to Town with Jonny Lang and Joss Stone, too. If you haven't heard it, give it a listen.
I enjoy his form of Jazz my brother introduced me to his style of music
Hanock hahaha
HERBIE'S INVENTIONS AND DIMENSIONS ALBUM IS A TRUE CLASSIC..... . . . . O U T S T A N D I N G ! ! ! !
Nice, what a heat.
gardenofmone y
NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE US - always, always thought provoking, doing it his way incredible music. a GIANT. luv ya herbie.
lingal17
The brother definitely has gifted hands. Loved and still love this side.
Been too long since I've heard this
The Piano 1980--Hancoc k refinery!!!
round midnight still one of my favorites--g u e s t singer Lonette-yum!
Boy do I love this duo...Lang and Stone AMAZING
Classic Headhunters !!!! Who is the percussionis t ?
Joe Zawinul, such a treasure !!! True master of his craft !!!
vic_dlg
Love this song bebe bop song
You got to enjoy this brother. He is Mr. Hands
This whole CD is funky
I LOVE IT!!!!!!!
This is a great song on a landmark album! The writing and the performances are impeccable! One of my all time favorite records!
Neither did I. It's a new one on me and I have always listened to him.
chaschrystal
Never knew Hancock wasn't his real name......
it's ok! they're doing some updates... they'll fix it up dont worry :-)
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