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Herbert Jeffrey “Herbie” Hancock, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 801

Essay

Introduction

Herbert Jeffrey “Herbie” Hancock is considered to be one of the best American Jazz musicians of the 20th Century. In addition to being a brilliant composer and musician he has also been one of the most influential musicians of our time.  He is renowned for his freestyle of jazz that embraces both funk and soul music.  His classic jazz improvisations blend jazz with classical music and has been influenced by the works of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.  Herbie was part of the Miles Davis’s second quintet .  He won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, being only the second jazz album to win this prestigious award in the music industry.  Herbie has had dozens of hits but amongst his most famous solo pieces are “Watermelon Man”, “Maiden Voyage”, “Chameleon” and “I thought it was you”.

Early Career

Herbie started off with a classical music education and at age 11 was playing Mozart with the Chicago Symphony. At a young age he was influenced by the piano music of Oscar Peterson and George Shearing which he transcribed developing his own music and harmonies. He also stated that he was influenced by the vocal group the Hi lo’s. and in particular this helped him to get the harmonies into his early music.  His music really took off after moving to Chicago in 1961 when he began working with Donald Byrd and Coleman Hawkins.  His first solo album “Takin’ off” was recorded in 1962 and was spotted by Miles Davis who at the time was forming a new band.  When Herbie joined Miles Davies second great quintet  fame quickly spread.  The new quintet comprised the best of talent in modern jazz today.  Ron Carter on Drums, Tony Williams and Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax. The quintet rapidly became recognized as one of the greatest jazz ensembles of all time.  ” Herbie Hancock’s creative path has moved fluidly between almost every development in acoustic and electronic jazz and R&B since 1960. He has attained an enviable balance of commercial and artistic success, arriving at a point in his career where he ventures into every new project motivated purely by the desire to expand the boundaries of his creativity.” (All about Jazz.com)

The Career Years

Herbies own career really took off in 1966 with Blue Note.  He created classic albums  like Maiden Voyage, Empyrean Isles and Speak like a child.  In 1966 he started compositing music scores for the TV and Movies resulting in successful hits and a career writing movie hits. In the 1970’s Herbie formed his own band called the Head hunters and created a new brand of electronic / funk jazz that swept the world wide music scene.  This included the classic hit chameleon resulting in the first ever jazz album to achieve platinum sales.  This break through highlighted the versatility of the musician and the inability for him to become branded or stereotyped as a single type of jazz musician.  The true hallmark of greatness for a jazz musician.

By mid 1970’s ,” 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 eleven albums in the pop charts during the 1970s.” (All about Jazz.com).  The 70’s output of music provided countless  inspiration and inexhaustible supply of samples he provided for the generations of hip hop and dance music artists.

Conclusions

Herbie Hancock was similar to Miles Davis in that he built his career in a number of very distinct stages.  This was measured in the passing of decades and how he effortly moved between different genres of music.  This was often termed “crossover” in jazz circles. Yet despite these moves between funk and soul he remained true to the root music of jazz.  He has achieved some 50+ leading projects over the years, with countless hits and expanding the landscape and horizons of jazz music. “Maiden Voyage” stands out as a landmark of the Blue Note sound, and remains Herbie Hancock’s finest composition. In the midst of a turbulent jazz scene, where musicians were restlessly exploring all of their options, Hancock always approached his recordings with a clear, holistic vision. Classic Hancock performances such as “Watermelon Man” or “Cantaloupe Island” would establish their identity in the introductory bars, and stick to the same course until they reached their chosen destination. The texture and ambiance of the music envelops the listener — and the musicians too. If Freddie Hubbard ever took a hotter trumpet solo than on this recording, I haven’t heard it. And all done with only four suspended chords — but the ‘hook’ is in the vamp. One of the high points of 1960s jazz.”  (Jazz.com)

Works Cited

All about Jazz.com. All About Jazz. 2009. 22 12 2009 <http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=7381>.

Jazz.com. Jazz.com. 2009. 22 12 2009 <http://jazz.com/dozens/the-dozens-twelve-essential-herbie-hancock-performances>.

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