"Playing funky has nothing to do with style; it's an approach to playing. For instance, Herbie Hancock and I have different styles, but we both play funky."
Running down his biographical background, Herbie Hancock opened with the statement: "I was born in Chicago April 12, 1940," reminding me with a start that at that time Teddy Wilson had his big band, Jess Stacy was winning all the polls and Blue Note was already a year old. "My parents are not professional musicians but my father is a bathtub singer and my mother tinkles around on piano. I was always interested in music as a very young child, and began music lessons at seven. Four years later I performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra."
While attending Hyde Park High School the young prodigy formed his own jazz band, which played around town. He attended Grinnell College, majoring in engineering for two years, then changed his major to music. He graduated in June, 1960 with a major in music composition. "During my last two years at Grinnell," Herbie recalls, "I won an award for the best musical composition with a suite for six woodwinds." He has done nothing further with the work, but hopes to record it some day. His education also included music courses at Roosevelt U. in Chicago. Currently he is working on his master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Vittorio Giannini.
Herbie's professional experience in jazz goes back just two years, but the start was auspicious: "My first gig with a name group was a two-week engagement in Chicago with Coleman Hawkins." In December of that year Donald Byrd called him to fill in for one night, subsequently taking him to New York as a permanent member of the combo. Since then, in addition to the jobs with Byrd, he has worked with Phil Woods and Oliver Nelson, has dabbled in television and accompanied some singers.
--LEONARD FEATHER, from the liner notes,
Takin' Off, Blue Note.
In May 1963 Hancock joined Miles Davis's quintet. His piano style had by that time evolved into a highly personal blend of blues and bop with colorful harmony and exquisite tone--a rich combination of elements heard in Davis's previous pianists Red Garland, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, and Victor Feldman. Working with Ron Carter and Tony Williams, Hancock helped revolutionize traditional jazz concepts of the rhythm section and its relation to the soloists. During his five years with the quintet Hancock also composed several tunes which have become jazz standards, including "Maiden Voyage," "Dolphin Dance," "Cantaloupe Island," "The Sorcerer," and "Speak Like A Child."
From 1971 to 1973 Hancock led a sextet which combined elements of jazz, rock, and African and Indian music with electronic devices and instruments. Influenced by Davis's earlier fusion recordings, in which Hancock had participated, the sextet was notable for its colorful doubling of instruments, tasteful blend of acoustic and electronic sounds, and mastery of compound meters. Thereafter Hancock began to use electric and electronic instruments more extensively.
The album Headhunters (1973) marked the beginning of a commitment to more commercial types of music, particularly rock, funk, and disco, and contained the hit single "Cameleon." Although Hancock returned occasionally to jazz projects from the late 1970s, particularly with his band V.S.O.P. and his piano duos with Chick Corea, during this period he enjoyed considerable commercial success. In 1983 the single "Rockit" reached no.1 on the pop chart, and the video for this recording received widespread critical acclaim.
After this success he turned his attention almost exclusively to jazz for the next two years. He acted and played in the film Round Midnight (1986) with Dexter Gordon, and won an Oscar for his score. In 1987 he toured Europe in a trio with Buster Williams and Al Foster, and the USA and Japan leading a quartet that included Mike Brecker, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams.
--BILL DOBBINS, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.
A selected discography of Herbie Hancock albums.
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|One Night with Blue Note, DVD, 1985||Herbie Hancock DVD / VHS on eBay|
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