Herbie Hancock Pushes Boundaries In Career Spanning 50 Years

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Few musicians, if any, have had more influence on modern music than Herbie Hancock. From jazz to R&B to pop music, Hancock has pushed boundaries and definitions in a career that has spanned five decades — and is still going strong.

But if Hancock has transcended any single musical identity — and he has — the music that inspired and guided him more than any other is jazz.

"It's, in a way, a conversation between the musicians," Hancock told Radio Boston. "There's not a whole lot negative that you can say about jazz."

Herbie Hancock was a child piano prodigy who performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11. He fell in love with jazz in high school and went on to play with some of the great players, including Donald Byrd, Oliver Nelson and, of course, his mentor and biggest influence, Miles Davis.

Hancock was part of the second great Miles Davis quintet, along with sax player Wayne Shorter, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams. He writes about this and the rest his life in music in his new memoir, "Possibilities."

Herbie Hancock will be delivering the "memoir keynote" at a Boston Book Festival event Thursday at Old South Sanctuary.


Herbie Hancock, pianist, keyboardist, bandleader and composer. He tweets @herbiehancock.


WBUR: Herbie Hancock: 'On A Path To Find My Own Answer'

  • "To listen to the music of Herbie Hancock is to witness an artist in constant evolution. Even looking at highlights alone — from 1962's "Watermelon Man," a tune he says he named after a fruit seller he'd seen in his hometown of Chicago, to playing in Miles Davis' band, to his improbable hip-hop hybrid "Rockit" in 1983, to his recent collaboration with fellow electronic tinkerer Flying Lotus — to refer to the pianist and composer as a jazz artist feels utterly inadequate."

Stereogum: Herbie Hancock Reveals Crack Addiction In New Memoir

  • "For a while I managed to smoke only once every couple of months or so, and every time I did, I swore it would be the last. I made rules for myself: I’d never do it on tour, or when my family was around. And I never told Gigi — never told anybody, in fact, except the very few people I actually smoked with. I was super paranoid about being found out and having my career, and maybe my life, ruined."

This segment aired on October 23, 2014.


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