Herbie Hancock’s new album “River: The Joni Letters” wins two Grammies: the “Best Contemporary Jazz Album GRAMMY” and the “Album of the Year GRAMMY”.
From the Verve press release: On “River: The Joni Letters”, Herbie Hancock aimed to dissect the lyrics of some of Joni Mitchell’s most famous songs. Instead of the instruments accompanying the lyrics, Hancock and producer Larry Klein arranged the music to interpret or express the emotions of the lyrics, all while keeping the melodies Mitchell fans know and love. This goal is most evident on “Both Sides Now,” one of four instrumental tracks on the record, which also features vocals by Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Corinne Bailey Rae, Luciana Souza, Leonard Cohen, and Mitchell.
Hancock first worked with Joni Mitchell on the iconic singer/songwriter’s Mingus record, an album comprised of collaborations between Mitchell and the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus. Together with Wayne Shorter, Hancock was part of a small group with which Mitchell tried to craft a new “conversational” approach to coupling lyrics with instrumental jazz.
Hancock and Klein worked for months, carefully reading through Joni’s lyrics and music, eventually paring their list down to thirteen songs that they hoped comprised a panoramic view of the poet’s work. They then assembled a group of the top musicians in the world, including the incomparable Wayne Shorter on soprano and tenor sax, the brilliant bassist and composer Dave Holland, (a musical cohort of Hancock and Shorter’s who shares their adventurousness, as well as the Miles Davis imprimatur), drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (a recent member of Hancock’s band as well as having played extensively with Mitchell and Sting), and Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke, also a member of Hancock’s band.