A celebration of music in Beaver Creek
August 23, 2010
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Herbie Hancock could have decided to rest on his laurels 10 or 20 years ago. Instead, he’s still musically curious, and still looking for new participants in a lifelong musical conversation that’s now in its sixth decade.Hancock will bring the “Imagine Project,” the latest chapter in that conversation, to the Vilar Performing Arts Center Aug. 25. He and his current band – all veteran session and touring musicians – will perform selections from the “Imagine Project” album.It’s a big job. The 10 tracks feature collaborations with a host of musicians, from Jeff Beck to Dave Matthews to Chaka Khan, Wayne Shorter, John Legend and Pink.The band performs the songs with digital vocal clips from some of the artists, as well as software that enables the musicians to bring fresh ideas to the songs on stage while still using the digital samples.
The songs include John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are A-Changin’.”In a phone interview, Hancock said the album is his response to the world as it is today.”It all started with me thinking, ‘why do I want to make a record?'” Hancock said. “I wanted to make a record that addresses the issues of today.”Hancock relied on producer Larry Klein – who produced many of Joni Mitchell’s albums in the 1970s and ’80s – to find vocalists for the record. That explains why a relatively young artist such as Pink ended up on the album.”I had to listen to her,” Hancock said. “I thought ‘damn, she’s got a pretty voice.'”The international cast on “The Imagine Project” would be a once-in-a-lifetime effort for a lot of musicians. But Hancock is a life-long collaborator.”Most artists, especially from the jazz world, put a group together, then make little changes ’til you get just what you want,” Hancock said. “I didn’t want to do that.”I’m basically curious – I like to try things I haven’t tried before, and not be tied to any one thing,” he added.
That explains Hancock’s remarkable musical resume.He performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony in 1951, at age 11. At 20, he was recording and touring with trumpeter Donald Byrd. His career has included performances with some of the biggest names in jazz, including a stint in Miles Davis’ seminal mid-’60s quintet.His own discography ranges from straight-ahead jazz to R&B to funk to hip-hop.He was in the vanguard of jazz player to experiment with rock and funk, and his “Head Hunters” album in 1973 was the first jazz record to earn “platinum” sales of more than 1 million copies.The diversity of styles and bandmates Hancock has explored over the years has been a boon for a lifelong touring musician.”I’ve been able to play the same festivals over and over because it’s different every time,” Hancock said.”The bad news (about not being in a stable group) is I didn’t have the beauty of being inside each other’s heads for so long,” he said. “But I like variety and different ways to express myself.”
While much of Wednesday’s performance at the Vilar will focus on “The Imagine Project,” there will be plenty of music from across Hancock’s career.”We’re mixing in earlier stuff like ‘Watermelon Man’ and ‘Chameleon,'” Hancock said. “We’ve got a really core jazz audience, and they know ‘Maiden Voyage’ and ‘Dolphin Dance.'”While “The Imagine Project” album and tour is a celebration of Hancock’s 70th birthday, he has no intent to retire any time soon. But he also has no idea what’s next.”‘The Imagine Project’ was just released,” he said. “It’s way too soon to think about the next project.”Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or at email@example.com.