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Herbie Hancock: Gershwin's World

C. Michael Bailey By

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Gershwin. Herbie Hancock has fashioned his birthday present to George Gershwin (and us) in the form of a suite, a musical collage that presents not only Gershwin's music, but other music popular during the time Gershwin was active as well. Hancock arranges this suite with a carefully selected and disparate group of artists that range from James Carter to Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Kathleen Battle to Joni Mitchell.

Bookends. Hancock's homage begins with an (extremely) abstract and percussion-dense "Fascinating Rhythm" that is entitled "Overture". This overture is brief, lasting a mere 55 seconds before moving into "It Ain't Necessarily So", featuring Eddie Henderson, Kenny Garrett and James Carter. This piece is reprised as an interlude following Hancock's duet with Chick Corea on James P. Johnson's "Blueberry Rhyme", a performance which recalls the same two shaking hands on "Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)" from the recently re-released An Evening with Herbie Handcock and Chick Corea.

Breaking to the Chase. What makes this recording worth the purchase is Joni Mitchell. She is a fine, fine jazz singer. So fine, I had to obtain her Mingus and Miles of Aisles discs with Weather Report. I listened to them again and again. Mitchell's "The Man I Love" and "Summertime" couple her superbly again with Wayne Shorter, who plays some of the most pragmatic soprano saxophone around. Stevie Wonder adds his most distinctive harmonica on this tune as well as his vocals and harmonica on a funky, serpentine reading of "St. Louis Blues."

Coda. Hancock ends his song and star cacophony with a simple, Hancockian reading of "Embraceable You". "Embraceable You" meets "Maiden Voyage". Gershwin meets Hancock: in tasteful reverence and jazz spirit.

Track Listing: Overture (Fascinating Rhythm), It Ain't Necessarily So, The Man I Love, Here Come De Honey Man, St. Louis Blues, Lullaby, Blueberry Rhyme, It Ain't Necessarily So (Interlude), Cotton Tail, Summertime, My Man's Gone, Prelude in C# Minor, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G, 2nd Movement (Maurice Ravel), Embraceable You.

Personnel: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea: Piano; Madou Dembelle: Djembe; Massamba Diop: Talking Drum; Cryo Baptista, Bireyma Guiye, Cheik Mbaye: Percussion; Eddie Henderson: Trumpet; Kenny Garrett: Alto Saxophone; James Carter: Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Wayne Shorter: Tenor Saxophone; Bakithi Kumalo: Bass and Guitar; Ira Coleman: Bass; Terri-Lynn Carrington: Drums, Marlon Graves: Guitar, Robert Sadin: Percussion Programming; Stevie Wonder: Harmonica and Vocals; Charles Curtis: Cello, The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Kathleen Battle: Vocals, Joni Mitchell: Vocals.

Title: Gershwin's World | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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