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Herbie Hancock: River: The Joni Letters

Neither a conventional tribute album nor a conventional Herbie Hancock record, whatever that is by now, River: The Joni Letters is instead a refreshingly different breed of “concept” album. It is also a brilliant piece of work, one of the most captivating jazz releases of 2007, the impact of which deepens on repeated listening. The subject, of course, is the poetess of song Joni Mitchell, unquestionably one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all-time, who transcends any genre or epoch.

Hancock’s most significant achievement here is to invite a dialogue between Mitchell’s own personalized engagement with the language of jazz and the ability of sensitive jazz musicians-here including Hancock, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and coloristic guitarist Lionel Lueke-to capture qualities of poise and poetry linked back to Mitchell’s distinctive musical voice. Jazz sensibilities and Joni Mitchell’s world enjoy a logical mutual admiration.

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