(Photo credit: Douglas-Kirkland)
Herbie Hancock is a true icon of modern music. Throughout his explorations, he has transcended limitations and genres while maintaining his unmistakable voice. With an illustrious career spanning five decades and 14 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters, he continues to amaze audiences across the globe.
There are few artists in the music industry who have had more influence on acoustic and electronic jazz and R&B than Herbie Hancock. As the immortal Miles Davis said in his autobiography, “Herbie was the step after Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and I haven’t heard anybody yet who has come after him.”
Herbie was a child piano prodigy who performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11. He began playing jazz in high school, initially influenced by Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. He also developed a passion for electronics and science, and double-majored in music and electrical engineering at Grinnell College.
In 1960, Herbie was discovered by trumpeter Donald Byrd. After two years of session work with Byrd as well as Phil Woods and Oliver Nelson, he signed with Blue Note as a solo artist. His 1963 debut album, ‘Takin’ Off’, was an immediate success, producing the hit “Watermelon Man.”
In 1963, Miles Davis invited Herbie to join the Miles Davis Quintet. During his five years with Davis, Herbie and his colleagues Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums) recorded many classics, including ‘ESP’, ‘Nefertiti’ and ‘Sorcerer’.
After leaving Davis, Herbie put together a new band called The Headhunters and, in 1973, recorded ‘Head Hunters.’ With its crossover hit single “Chameleon,” it became the first jazz album to go platinum. By mid-decade, Herbie was playing for stadium-sized crowds all over the world and had no fewer than four albums in the pop charts at once. In total, Herbie had 11 albums in the pop charts during the 1970s. His ’70s output inspired and provided samples for generations of hip-hop and dance music artists.
In 2007, Hancock recorded and released ‘River: The Joni Letters’, a tribute to longtime friend and collaborator Joni Mitchell featuring Wayne Shorter, guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and co-produced by Larry Klein. He enlisted vocalists Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Corinne Bailey Rae, Luciana Souza, Leonard Cohen and Mitchell herself to perform songs she wrote or was inspired by. The album received glowing reviews and was a year-end Top 10 choice for many critics. It also garnered three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year; Herbie is one of only a handful of jazz musicians ever to receive that honor.
Now in the sixth decade of his professional life, Herbie Hancock remains where he has always been: in the forefront of world culture and music.
Official website: www.herbiehancock.com