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Herbie Hancock

Throughout his career, Herbie Hancock has refused to be confined to one musical category or situation, making a name for himself on both acoustic piano and electric keyboards, and in idioms ranging from hard-bop, soul-jazz and fusion to funk, pop and world music. Born in Chicago in 1940, Hancock began playing piano when he was seven and was considered a bit of a prodigy, performing the first movement of a Mozart piano concerto in public when he was 11. After college, he joined the Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams Quintet in 1961. Signed to Blue Note, Hancock immediately had a hit when he introduced “Watermelon Man.” After recording with Sonny Rollins, in 1963 he became a key member of the Miles Davis Quintet, staying five years as Davis’ music evolved from hard-bop to avant-garde jazz and fusion. In his own Blue Note albums, Hancock introduced “Cantaloupe Island,” “Speak Like a Child” and “Maiden Voyage.”

Very much interested in electronic keyboards, Hancock organized an adventurous and versatile sextet in 1969 that created consistently colorful and predictable music until its breakup in 1973. At that time, Hancock formed the Headhunters, having a bestseller with his funky “Chameleon.” After a few years playing keyboards with the Headhunters, Hancock led the all-star acoustic quintet V.S.O.P. that featured Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard. Hancock would from then on alternate between electric and acoustic music, having a hit with the percussive “Rockit” in 1983, writing film scores, utilizing Wynton and Branford Marsalis on some of his records, performing techno-pop, teaming up with Michael Brecker and Roy Hargrove in his New Directions group, paying tribute to George Gershwin on the recording Gershwin’s World, performing modern funk on Future 2 Future, and recording jazz versions of Joni Mitchell compositions on the Grammy-winning River: The Joni Letters. No matter what idiom or situation Herbie Hancock appears in, he always sounds like himself and finds something fresh to say.