“There is some homework.”

That is how this article started, as a homework assignment for my youngest child.

It was said to me by my kid’s music teacher as we chatted after a lesson in the hallway. He always assigns some fun or interesting videos to watch and lets me know about it too, as a reminder.

The assignment: Watch Herbie Hancock’s Possibilities movie. If that wasn’t possible, try to at least watch some of the songs from the album on YouTube.

Herbie Hancock? The first thought that went through my head was “Rockit” from the 1980s.

What a throwback! The “Rockit” video was also popular, but I included the performance because Herbie has mentioned that it was one of the greatest nights of his life with the exhilarating performance. It is also how I remember it, by watching it as a teeny-bopper on tv. Check out the famous faces in the front row at the end. Awesome!

Ah the memories of the early 80s, the rap and rollerskating. If you are a kid of the 80s, here is a YouTube mix of early hip hop and rap that will bring you back. I have to say that the breakdancing and the movie Flashdance really helped form my lifelong appreciation of dance. Anyway, I digress.

I am embarrassed to say that not much else came to mind about Herbie Hancock. I knew he was a musician, but that was pretty much it. My musical tastes are varied. I prefer upbeat dance-worthy music for listening. For background music, I am open to jazz, world, instrumental, or whatever. I do try to steer clear of music that is too melancholy. Life can be hard enough sometimes and I like to use music to bring me up or relax me. I don’t want to have to analyze it or it to bum me out. So, that is the extent of my music preferences.

I looked up the movie when we got home and I put it on my movie queue. When it arrived in the mail a few days later, we made it a family viewing event. Wow. I know I am a little late to the party because I hadn’t heard of Possibilities until it was recommended to me and it was released years ago. I guess it is better late than never.

I was so inspired by it that I had to read the book and listen to the album by the same name. That is why I want to share my thoughts with you. Thus, the topic of this review article is Herbie Hancock: Possibilities.

 

Who is Herbie Hancock?

Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock at 2013 Kennedy Center Honor Awards

Herbie Hancock is a jazz musician and icon.

He was born in Chicago, IL in 1940. He started playing classical piano at a young age and performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when he was 11. He became interested in jazz in high school.

Because of his technical nature and curiosity, when he attended college he initially studied electrical engineering. He couldn’t let go of his love for music and eventually double-majored in engineering and music.

His love of science drove his innovation in music by incorporating the newest technology into his music making. To me, this really displays the connection between music and math. Of course, being an engineer myself this leaves a little bit of a soft spot in my heart for him. *smile*

Over his long and prolific career in music he has worked with countless talents. He has produced at least 53 albums. He also has written jingles and movie scores, one of which won an oscar. He musical accomplishments are so vast and wide-ranging that I couldn’t possibly list them all here. If you want to learn more about them, visit the Herbie Hancock website.

He is a Nichiren Buddhist, which he initially took up to help him perform better musically. It is now a heavy influence on his entire life.

He has been appointed a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. If you don’t know about UNESCO, you should look it up. It is an international organization based on bringing peace through education, science, and culture. Everything I love!

He also uses his talent to work with the UCLA Music department and Harvard University spreading his wisdom and expertise. Neat!

Awards (too many to list so just some highlights)

  • Jazz Foundation of America Lifetime Achievement Award
  • SF Jazz Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2013 Kennedy Center Honors
  • Miles Davis Award
  • NEA Jazz Masters Award
  • 14 Grammy awards
  • 1 Academy awards
  • 5 MTV awards
  • many, many, many more

 

All the Possibilities

This is where it gets confusing. Herbie has an album, a movie, and a book all with the name of Possibilities.

At the beginning of the movie, he touches on the meaning of the word possibilities to him. He speaks of the childlike wonder where anything can happen. He doesn’t want people to get scared or set in their ways as they turn into adults, but to be open to all possibilities in life.

He has demonstrated this curiosity and openness through his musical career. He has never wanted to repeat something that has been done before. He always pushes himself to do something fresh and to be influenced by other people, the environment, and the times. I now understand his connection to the word, but still am confused about the album, movie, and book of the same name.

I will present all 3 Possibilities chronologically as they were released.

2005: Herbie Hancock: Possibilities (album)Possibilities album cover

The album was released in August of 2005. It is an album of collaborations with a range of artists from different genres.

Herbie’s intention was to take the artists out of their comfort zones. He pushed to free them from the genre with which they are typically associated. This apparently is not the norm, as musicians are often pressured to stay true to the style they originally were discovered on. He really wanted the music to grow organically.

The tracks include:

• “Stitched Up” featuring John Mayer

• “Safiatou” featuring Santana and Angelique Kidjo

• “A Song For You” featuring Christina Aguilera

• “Hush, Hush, Hush” with Annie Lennox

• “I Do It For Your Love” with Paul Simon

• “Sister Moon” featuring Sting

• “When Love Comes To Town” with Jonny Lang and Joss Stone

• “Don’t Explain” with Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan

• “I Just Called To Say I Love You” with Raul Midon and Stevie Wonder

• “Gelo No Montana” with Trey Anastasio

Here is a link to the songs at YouTube: Herbie Hancock: Possibilities at YouTube 

2006: Herbie Hancock: Possibilities (movie)

The movie was released in April of 2006. As I mentioned previously, this was my introduction to Possibilities and my favorite. As I mentioned previously, it inspired me to look into the album and book.

It is a documentary of making the Possibilities album, so there is a connection with the name. It is mostly a look at the creative process and action. There are also some shots of Herbie talking about his musical career and his philosophy of making music.

It is interesting to see how the different artists like to work and how they work together.

2014: Herbie Hancock: Possibilities (book).

The book was released in October 2014. This is where I get confused with the names. This book is a memoir of his life and was released quite a number of years after the album and movie. It covers his personal life as well as his musical career. It doesn’t really seem to be tied to the album and movie.

If you are a huge fan of jazz and want to know the nuances of his career, then this book is for you. It details all the bands and musicians he has worked with, which is a lot. It goes on about a lot of his songs, of which I am unfamiliar so I had no point of reference.

 

What I think of the Possibilities

Should you partake in the Possibilities trio? Yes and no.

Book. It depends on your love and knowledge of jazz. If you know the many names in jazz and many of Herbie’s songs, then you would enjoy the book. It has a lot of that detail in there. If you are more on the jazz-naive side like myself, you have no point of reference to work with, so I would say skip it.

I wanted to learn more about his passion and insights on music . I also wanted to learn more about his philosophy and how it affects his life. That is what is most interesting to me. It touches briefly on his Buddhism and the lessons he learned, but not as much as I would have liked. I feel he has so much to contribute and I didn’t get what I was looking for. I ended up skimming the rest of the book to finish it.

The book just seemed very flat and fact oriented and you know I love facts. When you are covering passion, music, and the human spirit it needs more of a human element. His essence comes through much more vibrantly on the movie where you can see it.

Album. I am luke warm. Listen to some songs on YouTube to see if you like it. Everyone has their own tastes in music.

While I do appreciate jazz, I am not a huge jazz fan. Some songs on the album I like, others not so much. My favorites are “Stitched Up” with John Mayer (I am not typically a big John Mayer fan, but I like this.) and “Safiatou” with Santana and Angelique Kidjo (They are both so cool on the movie.). Both songs have a quicker pace and are a little more fun. They may get you moving in your seat a little.

Movie. See it. I give it a strong recommendation for everyone. Here are the reasons why you should watch.

1. It is cool.

Professional music studios are not the offices/cubicles of my former working life. It is definitely a different environment than what I am familiar with. Surrounded by super creative people making music looks like so much fun. It makes me want to be a part of it.

2. It is inspirational.

Seeing a person with visible passion for anything is inspiring. To be able to take bits of wisdom from someone who is at the top of their game is a gift. They have a unique perspective.

Herbie has learned a lot through his experiences and Buddhism, especially of his work with Miles Davis. He has learned to take the lessons learned in music and apply it to all of life. Some of these are:

♦ Stand up for your beliefs.

♦ Listen.

♦ Most importantly, take the events of life and turn them into something of value. There are many ways of looking at things.

3. Herbie is amazing.

His creative energy, joy, and genius make him ageless. He shows no sign of stopping. He says that he learned from Miles that a master doesn’t teach you what to do, but lets you reveal yourself. He fits that description, as shown in the movie as he nurtures the artists so graciously. With humor and encouragement, he gets artists to safely explore outside their own genres and inspired me at the same time.

 

It’s a wrap

Are you a Herbie Hancock fan? Were you aware of any/all of the Possibilities? I feel a little dumb for not knowing more about Herbie Hancock and his innovative spirit, but what do you do? So much to know in this world, I am doing my best to expand my knowledge one article at a time. *wink*

Do you regularly listen to jazz? When? I listen to jazz as background music. When I am chatting with my husband or doing a puzzle.

Let me know in the poll or comments.

Do you regularly listen to jazz?

 

Resources

herbiehancock.com -Herbie Hancock’s website

“Herbie Hancock: Possibilities.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0479409/>.

How music could make you a rocket scientist at ABCnews.com

“Magnolia Pictures: Possibilities.” Magnolia Pictures: Possibilities. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2015. <http://www.magpictures.com/profile.aspx?id=0e2645bb-ff22-4ab6-a605-3202b8855b6a>.

Wikipedia contributors. “Herbie Hancock.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 May. 2015. Web. 5 May. 2015.