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CD Review: Herbie Hancock's "River"

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Artist: Herbie Hancock
Album: River: The Joni Letters
Label: Verve Records
Release Date: 9/25/07

I haven't had a chance to review a release from a "living legend" until this album arrived in my PO box. Herbie Hancock seems like someone who has done it all: a jazz icon unafraid of technology, a winner of multiple Grammy awards and an Oscar, and a virtuoso live performer - but he's never been a lyricist, and had never made lyrics a focus or inspiration for an album. Hancock might have chosen easier material to interpret since Joni Mitchell's pseudo-poetry hasn't universally been thought of as accessible but it seems like he was up for the challenge of using words and letters (a reference echoed in the album title) instead of just musical notes as inspiration.

To tackle the project Hancock enlisted Mitchell's own collaborator/producer Larry Klein and a team of "the best": Wayne Shorter on soprano and tenor sax, Dave Holland on bass, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and guitarist Lionel Loueke. Together this crew broke down each song, line by line, to discover nuances and themes for what was to become less of a tribute album to Mitchell and more of a set of completely new material.

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[review continues after the jump]