Q&A: Legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock will electrify Montreal audiences, again
Hancock spoke with CBC's Duke Eatmon about his storied career and upcoming show
Legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock has been breaking music's sacred rules for decades, in several different genres.
Ironically, on his musical journey, Hancock has created new rules to replace the very ones that he's broken.
He was the last man tied to Miles Davis during his classic era and the bridge in hip hop from Grandmixer D.ST. to Snoop Dogg.
Hancock won the 2008 Grammy Award for album of the year for River – The Joni Letters, a collection of Joni Mitchell classics reworked with jazz arrangements.
He's played The Montreal Jazz Festival several times throughout his long career, in several incarnations — performing solo and in a quintet and everything in between.
Hancock, who will play the festival at Place des Arts on July 2 with Thundercat (another funky rule-breaker) spoke with CBC's Duke Eatmon from his home in Los Angeles.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On performing in Montreal
I always remember the excitement that's in Montreal surrounding the Jazz Festival, and you can feel it on the streets. You can feel it inside the venues. At least they were in the past. It almost feels like the whole city is into jazz for those few days.
On learning from Miles Davis
One of the main things is that Miles encouraged his musicians to explore and to try things that we haven't tried before. So that gave us so much freedom to invent and create new stuff ... in order to learn something new. We didn't know how it was going to work, and that's such a great encouragement. It leaves this wide open vista for being able to expand and grow and create without boundaries.
On finding his love for jazz
I didn't really like jazz until I was 14. I listened to classical music, and rhythm and blues before that. When I got a lot of criticism from critics about doing The HeadHunters record (1973) — like I was selling out. Nope. I was expressing where I came from.
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On his contributions to hip hop
For the most part I found that the hip-hop musicians and artists themselves — they know 'cause they tell me — they would not even be doing what they're doing if it had not been for Rockit (1983). Snoop Dog told me that. Snoop Dog actually credited me with being a founder of hip hop.
On Joni Mitchell
If you look at many of the bands that she had later on, she had people like Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone and Jaco Pastorius and Pat Metheny. I mean, she had jazz musicians backing her up. She's very comfortable in a jazz atmosphere. That's her roots. That's where she comes from.
The only reason she got into folk music was because she wrote poetry, she thought it would be a good way, an easy way for her to present her poetry which is through folk music.
Herbie Hancock will play the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier with Thundercat July 2 as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
With files from CBC's Homerun