The legendary pianist and innovator explores the words and music of another musical pioneer JONI MITCHELL on his first new studio recording for Verve since 1998's GRAMMYr Award winner Gershwin's World. Inspired in equal parts by Mitchell's poetic lyrics and unique melodies/harmonies, the musicians play with a restraint and elegance (on both the instrumental and vocal tracks) that achieves a perfect balance between the adventurous aesthetics of jazz improvisation and the emotional directness of the finest Adult Pop music Herbie Hancock's latest recording Possibilities has scanned nearly 400,000 units. Joni Mitchell's brand new album also releases on 9/25 early confirmed media includes: NPR Morning Edition feature (airdate TBD); NY Times Arts & Leisure Fall Preview; review in The New Yorker.
On paper, River sounds like a match made in several versions of heaven. Legendary pianist Herbie Hancock re-imagines Joni Mitchell with his hand-picked, star-studded band--including saxophonist Wayne Shorter--in tow. Luminary guests lend vocals to a song apiece: Norah Jones ("Court and Spark"), Tina Turner ("Edith and the Kingpin"), Corinne Bailey Rae ("River"), Luciana Souza ("Amelia"), Leonard Cohen (with an unsettlingly sanguine version of "The Jungle Line"), even Mitchell herself ("Tea Leaf Prophecy"). In the event, though, a few fundamental elements go awry. Hancock plays with almost saccharine understatement throughout, and even Shorter's seminal "Nefertiti" and Duke Ellington's "Solitude" fall into the album's presiding, somnolent surface, though to a lesser degree does the instrumental version of Mitchell's "Sweet Bird." But girding, and in some measure, saving, the proceedings, the lyrics here testify to a subtler wisdom guiding Hancock's set list. The mix includes a continuum from intrepid classics to dusty, fans-only fare, but a distinct reverence for Joni Mitchell the Poet threads them together, and, in the end, this album works best as a sleepy window into one fan's giddy and particular love affair with his source material. Fans of Hancock win out. --Jason Kirk