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Herbie Hancock - River

2008-09-17 08:17
His previous album Possibilities, saw him collaborating with artists such as John Mayer, Christina Aguilera, Sting and Damien Rice to name a few. He continues to stretch the jazz genre to its fullest again here. River: The Joni Letters sees Hancock collaborating with some of the world's most celebrated singers including Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Luciana Souza, Corinne Bailey Rae, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell herself.

His quest to find fresh jazz ground maps a whole new world of exploratory interaction between melody, harmony and lyrics. While keeping the well known melodies that Mitchell fans around the world love, the music has been arranged around the emotion of the lyrics. A simple, thoughtful strategy. But one that allows the essence of the songs to shine through.
Hancock and producer Larry Klein (Mitchell's long time producer and creative partner) have selected thirteen songs that best show the composer's work. Helping to craft these songs, Hancock assembled a group of the world's top musicians including saxophone legend Wayne Shorter who has collaborated with Mitchell many times in the past, Dave Holland (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) and Beninborn Lionel Loueke (guitar).

To add another dimension to the picture, two instrumental pieces, Wayne Shorter's masterpiece "Nefertiti" and Duke Ellington's "Solitude" were included because these two compositions were very influential in Mitchell's own musical development.

In this new approach of partnering poetry with instrumental jazz, each singer has added their own unmistakable signature to each track. Norah Jones delivers the classic "Court and Spark". Tina Turner turns "Edith and the Kingpin" into a new cocktail lounge classic. The Christmas gem "River", sung by British singer Corinne Bailey Rae brings optimism.

Later, Brazilian-born Luciana Souza's voice on "Amelia" dances in between Hancock's piano and Shorter’s saxophone. Mitchell herself sings the autobiographical "Tea Leaf Prophecies". The album comes to a close with a duet where Leonard Cohen recites the lyrics of "The Jungle Line", whilst Hancock adds improvised accompaniment.

This album isn't just a collection of Mitchell’s hits, but rather an inventive, unique and honest tribute to the legend that is Joni Mitchell. It is a must for any serious jazz lover's collection.

- Shaun Michau

Herbie Hancock first worked with Joni Mitchell on her landmark album Mingus, a homage to the late great bassist and composer Charles Mingus. At 68, there is no sign of the progressive pianist/composer slowing down.

What to read next: Kalahari

Tulip 2008-10-21 09:13 AM
Wake Up Call Just when you thought you had the basics covered, he reinvents himself. As for the collaborating artists, he could not have chosen better.

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