Music legend Herbie Hancock dives into AI while his all-star album with Kendrick Lamar is revamped

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

SAN DIEGO — Genre-leaping keyboard legend Herbie Hancock has an update for fans eagerly anticipating his new album — originally due out in 2020 — featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, West African guitar innovator Lionel Loueke, Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, electric bassist Thundercat, producer Flying Lotus and such hip-hop mainstays as Common and Snoop Dogg.

"I tried to complete that record several times. But before I could finish it, I didn't like it anymore and had to start over from scratch," said Hancock, an Oscar winning film composer, 2013 Kennedy Center Honors recipient and 14-time Grammy Award-winner for his jazz, R&B and pop recordings.

Hancock's music over the years has ranged from mainstream and cutting-edge jazz to funk, Latin, pop, folk, techno, classical, Afro-futurism, hip-hop and beyond. In 2008, he became the first jazz artist since 1964 to win album of the year honors at the Grammy Awards. His historic victory came for his lovingly crafted Joni Mitchell homage, "River: The Joni Letters," on which Mitchell is a guest singer.

In a 2019 Union-Tribune interview, the Chicago-born music maverick indicated his new album was nearing completion. But Hancock's constantly restless artistic spirit, coupled with the 2020 pandemic shutdown, led him to reevaluate things in a major way.

"It's gone through a lot of doorways, let's say," he said of what will be his first new album since his all-star, globe-leaping "The Imagine Project" in 2010.

"I would think there's light at the end of the tunnel, and we're thinking about releasing one or two (songs) either this year or next. I've recorded a lot of stuff!"


'A different time'

Hancock spoke recently for more than an hour from his Los Angeles office and recording studio. He laughed appreciatively when reminded that Duke Ellington — when asked what inspired him to compose and record — famously responded: "Give me a deadline!"

"He was absolutely right and that's what it used to be like for me, all the time," Hancock said. "I'd have deadlines and things had to be done by a certain day — bam, bam, bam! — and that's how it had been throughout my whole career."

But not anymore.


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