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Herbie Hancock’s Tribute to Joni Mitchell Due Out Next Month

A new tribute album to singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, spearheaded by her longtime friend, the legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock (pictured), will be released Sept. 25 on Verve. Entitled River: The Joni Letters, the album features Hancock and an all-star jazz ensemble performing 13 Mitchell compositions as well as two additional jazz numbers she has cited as influential to her musical growth. The musicians for the recording are Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist/composer Dave Holland, and two members of Hancock’s regular band, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and guitarist Lionel Loueke.

Hancock and Mitchell first collaborated, along with Shorter, on her 1979 album Mingus, in which she strove to create a new “conversational” approach to combining lyrics and instrumental jazz. For River, Mitchell’s longtime producer and creative partner Larry Klein helped Hancock sort through her catalogue to select songs they could adapt to achieve the conversational approach Mitchell admires. They ultimately pared the list down to 13 songs they thought representative of Mitchell’s breadth, and Klein and Hancock handled arrangements and production together.

River includes vocals from Mitchell, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Tina Turner and Luciana Souza, as well as a spoken-word interpretation of Mitchell’s lyrics by Leonard Cohen. The two songs included on the album that were not written by Mitchell are Wayne Shorter’s “Nefertiti,” and the Duke Ellington standard “Solitude.”

Originally Published