On the phone from Los Angeles to promote his recent autobiography, Herbie Hancock, 74, laughs when I bring up the notorious 1989 tell-all by his beloved mentor Miles Davis. “It sounded like Miles talking!” he chuckles, adding, “I didn’t approach [my book] from the standpoint of comparing it to other musicians’ autobiographies.” Still, Davis’ and Hancock’s memoirs succeed by offering conversational and transparent central voices, no matter how different those voices might be.
In the case of Hancock’s Possibilities (with Lisa Dickey; Viking Books), that means a sweet, inquisitive voice, bright but uncomplicated and so devoid of cynicism it borders on naive. And because Hancock is one of the few bona fide superstars in jazz history-and because he never stops working-it’s a voice you’re probably already familiar with, whether giving near-giddy introductions in a concert hall or deployed behind a podium. (From the Thelonious Monk Institute to Harvard to his work with International Jazz Day, Hancock has engaged of late in more public speaking than a career politician.)