So if you can imagine giving jazz legend a 70th birthday party and got a load of his favourite International music stars to join in on ten of his favourite songs, The Imagine Project would be such a star studded present!
We love Herbie Hancock. From Blue Note days (Takin’ Off, Empyrean Isles), Maiden Voyage etc) to his Warner Brothers re-invention (like Fat Albert Rotunda and Mwandishi to name just two) to odd rarities like Trunk Records release of Hear, O Israel – A Prayer Ceremony In Jazz and, of course, his electro hip-hip pioneering classic ‘Rockit’ in the early 1980s.
It was good to see him tour with Future 2 Future at the start of the decade although the album itself was not his best and it’s hard to believe that the fore runner to this album came out in 2005, a set called Possibilities that could be found in Starbucks I seem to recall.
Similar to that album, there are loads of guests here. Some with love almost as much as Hancock like Oumou Sangare, Tinariewen, K’Naan, Los Lobos, Wayne Shorter whilst there’s some that we wouldn’t bother typing (normally) ever lone say we listened to (or liked).
That said, I think the song selection has improved since Possibilities and who would have thought Pink and John Legend would sound good doing a cover version of a track by one of World Music’s leaders, Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’? Admittedly it’s a rather good tune and well done but there are loads better on this CD.
Like we like C?©U (see Vagarosa and C?©U) who treats us here with the Baden Powell/Vinicius Moraes classic ‘Temp de Amor’ with fine piano by Mr. Hancock as ever and there’s another track with strong Latin leanings, ‘La Tierra’ that’s written and sung by Juanes who’s from Medell??n, Colombia.
There’s a couple that have a quirky oddness to them that I’m not sure that I love or not. Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A Changin’ that features Lisa Hannigan, The Chieftans, Toumani Diabat?© and Lionel Loueke (currently I’d say it’s winning 70/30) and Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ featuring the vocals of James Morrison and a name from the jazz fusion past, Paulinho Da Costa on percussion! (again 70/30 in favour) as Hancock’s playing is so cool plus I’d recommend any record with a Paulinho Da Costa credit on it).
Even though Robert Nesta Marley has been dead for nearly 30 years, I can’t tell you how good the Tinariwen lead ‘Tamatant Tilay/Exodus’ medley is that features the vocals of Conrad Lozano, David Hidalgo and Louie P?©rez from Los Lobos (check their new album Tin Can Trust) and K’naan. With Herbie on jazz funk keys, it’s just fantastic to have on repeat all day and a real shame it fades out so soon.
To keep in with this week’s Far Out Spaced Oddyssey groove (including The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia In 1970s Nigeria and Michael Leonhart & The Avramina 7′s Seahorse And The Storyteller), Dave Matthews on a tape loop/fuzz box version of Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (great banjo but where’s Herbie gone?)
And talking of Lennon, of course the project is named after his peace anthem, ‘Imagine’. Now once you get past the rather sticky Pink/Seal duet intro, there’s Konono No. 1, 60s axe legend Jeff Beck on here with India.Arie and giving the track a real world flavour, Oumou Sangar?© (who’s album Seya was a top ten favourite in the office last year).
The CD ends on more 60s inspiration, this time on the Indo-jazz-worldness tip with a track called ‘The Song Goes On’ by Larry Klein with lyrics adapted from the poem “10″ from The Book Of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke (you get the idea as Klein has also got credits for covering Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ in the past). The mix of Chaka Khan, Anoushka Shankar, his old mate Wayne Shorterand some heavy Indo percussion gets this one almost goes into cosmic jazz modal; definitely one for the next Jazz Chronicles session.
Whilst this album has elements of massive “name drop” and doesn’t avoid some ‘[Insert Country] Has Talent’ moments, it’s probably the album I’ve listened to most of late as there’s some very fine (and some surprisingly good) performances. It’s at its best when collectively it all clicks into place which is thankfully more often than not; the song goes on, beautiful – Happy Birthday Herbie Hancock – peace and love.
Reviewed: Herbie Hancock – The Imagine Project (Sony Music) Cat. No: 88697718992 Release date: 2nd August 2010
1 Imagine (7:24)
2 Don’t Give Up (7:33)
3 Tempo De Amor (4:48)
4 Space Captain (7:00)
5 The Times, They Are A’ Changin’ (8:11)
6 La Tierra (4:56)
7 Tamatant Tilay / Exodus (4:46)
8 Tomorrow Never Knows (5:28)
9 A Change Is Gonna Come (8:52)
10 The Song Goes On (7:49)