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Interviews

Herbie Hancock: (New) Directions Included

By Published: March 13, 2004
AAJ: Then you switched totally back and did the jazz thing with Roy Hargrove and Michael Brecker ( Directions in Music ), but doing it totally different. That music isn't the way it was done in the past — I know you intended it that way.

HH: The thing is, much of the way I look at music now, and its role as an aspect of culture, and creative expression for human beings in the 21st century, much of the way I look at it for a record like Future 2 Future is very similar to how I might look at it for a record like Directions in Music. Some of the basic elements are the same, although how they may present themselves may be somewhat different because of the difference in the instruments.

There's not so much of a difference in the foundation or the roots of where they come from. So recently I've been doing some tours with Future 2 Future, some tours with Directions in Music, and I find that they influence each other. I don't make as much of a distinction between the two as I did in the past. As a matter of fact, so much of Future 2 Future stems more from the avant-garde stuff I did with the Mwandishi band, which was totally acoustic, than it does, say, coming from Rockit.

When I do concerts, because I've been in the business for a long time and certain pieces of music have become associated with me, I do some pieces from the past. They may include "Rockit" or "Watermelon Man" or "Dolphin Dance" or "Maiden Voyage." Whether it's an acoustic group I'm touring with or an electric group, I might do any of those pieces from the past.

AAJ: You're touring at the end of this year with just an acoustic quarter. The music from the smaller group may be not as intense as the Directions in Music band?

HH: We'll see how it evolves. We're still kind of getting used to each other. But I'm not so focused on intensity from that kind of testosterone level that a lot of jazz is on. I think there's been not only enough, but too much of that. It gets boring when you look out at the audience and you see that 90 percent of the people out there are males. It makes you wonder what's happening, what's missing. I think a lot of that has to do with the masculine part of us making it difficult for the kind of sensitive feminine part to come out. That's why women aren't really attracted to the music, because it doesn't express some of those elements. Both men and women have masculine and feminine elements. We've just been concentrating on the masculine elements in jazz coming out for too long. It's time for feminine elements to emerge.

Not just in jazz, I think in politics too. Men have gotten to the point where we're not doing a good job anymore. It remains to be seen whether we really did a good job in the past. [chuckles] We're definitely not capable of doing it at this point, because we're going to kill each other, the way it's going. I think women can lead us out of that, if we give them a chance. Unfortunately, we pretty much hold the reins.

AAJ: It's becoming a pissing contest all the time.

HH: Right! Exactly! And we're pretty much pissed out [laughter].

AAJ: When Miles passed, there were some people who openly wondered who would be the person to venture out. Miles would go out there and prove it was OK to do this, it was OK to do that. Even if he wasn't absolutely the originator of every direction that he took, he made it OK. And people were saying, "Who's going to do that now?" It may be you. Do you ever think that way? You have been out there in hip-hop, in electronics, acoustic, solo. You don't seem to be intimated by any direction.

HH: In a way, I feel someone younger should be doing that. I'm aware that a lot of what is happening in jazz has not had a very dynamic change in a long time. There are people who are making changes, but right now, for me the most dynamic leader is Wayne Shorter.

AAJ: But a contemporary of yours and not a young guy.

HH: Exactly. It's funny because Wayne and I have had a lot of conversations about the state of jazz today and what's happening. We realize that there doesn't seem to be a lot of people looking into new ways of reexamining the conventions that we've grown to accept in the music. We've both taken on the responsibility, as we should, in looking at the fact that our real future lies in our youth. What should we be doing to help carve a path that can lead toward an openness and a fertile kind of future for the development of the music?

We're both kind of reexamining conventional ways of looking at things and putting out on our records new approaches every time. Just to show it can be done. We don't have to do things the same way every time. People aren't aware of a sameness. In a lot of cases we have to show there are other ways of looking at things. We're doing that because that's how we feel about music at this point in our own development.

AAJ: At this point, in your long career, who inspires you. Is it the same people. Who inspires you today. Or what?

HH: In the past, there's always been one leader that has led the pack to development of the music. There was Charlie Parker. Then Miles and Trane did it. Before Bird, Duke did it. There were various people. Since Miles, there doesn't seem to be a certain ringleader. I started examining the concept of: Does there have to be a single person doing that? And does it have to be a person at all? Maybe the inspiration can come from a whole other concept, rather than a person. I'm kind of a proponent of that idea. In my case, I'm looking less to musical sources for inspiration and broadening my scope beyond the entertainment field and looking more into life itself. Life today. I find myself paying more attention to the news. I read the newspaper more. I've actually started to read. I hardly ever read books before. I'm looking at other sources for inspiration; feelings and developments that are happening in human life itself.

How we look at the environment. All these are new things that are part of the 21st century. Who paid attention to the environment in the 20th century? Now we see that we have to pay attention to the environment. We have to protect it. It's become a real issue and a lot of people are still looking at it from a 20th century standpoint. They could care less. But there are others that are realizing that it's part of what keeps us alive It's part of the beauty that exists for creative inspiration.


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