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River: The Joni Letters (with Bonus Tracks) - Exclusive [Special Edition]

Herbie HancockAudio CD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)

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Amazon Price New from Used from
MP3 Music, 12 Songs, 2007 $5.99  
Audio CD, Special Edition, 2007 --  
Vinyl, Import, Limited Edition, 2007 $47.77  

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Court And Spark 7:35Album Only
listen  2. Edith And The Kingpin 6:32$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Both Sides Now 7:38Album Only
listen  4. River 5:25$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Sweet Bird 8:15Album Only
listen  6. The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms) 6:34$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Solitude 5:42$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Amelia 7:26Album Only
listen  9. Nefertiti 7:30Album Only
listen10. The Jungle Line 5:01$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen11. A Case Of You 7:37Album Only
listen12. All I Want 4:15$0.99  Buy MP3 

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Herbie Hancock is a true icon of modern music. Throughout his explorations, he has transcended limitations and genres while maintaining his unmistakable voice. With an illustrious career spanning five decades and 12 Grammy® Awards including the 2007 Album Of The Year for ‘River: The Joni Letters’, he continues to amaze audiences.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 2007)
  • Original Release Date: September 25, 2007
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Special Edition
  • Label: Verve
  • ASIN: B000V9RRPQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,863 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

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

Product Description

This exclusive version of River: The Joni Letters includes two bonus tracks, "All I Want" featuring Sonya Kitchell and "A Case of You."

The legendary pianist and innovator Herbie Hancock explores the words and music of another musical pioneer, Joni Mitchell, on his first new studio recording for Verve since 1998's GRAMMY® award-winning Gershwin's World.

Inspired in equal parts by Mitchell's poetic lyrics and unique melodies, Hancock and saxophone giant Wayne Shorter play with a restraint and elegance that achieves a perfect balance between the adventurous aesthetics of jazz improvisation and the emotional directness of the finest Adult Pop music.

Hancock builds upon his (and Shorter's) previous collaborations with Ms. Mitchell to create a sound that will appeal not only to fans of both artists, but to the listener familiar with the work of Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and the other brilliant guest vocalists featured on this session. River: The Joni Letters is the perfect CD for the music fan looking for something new that's based in the familiar.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 114 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In a Series of Tributes, Hancock Delivers September 28, 2007
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Joni Mitchell has enjoyed a year of industry fans paying tribute to her, those whom she considers her "true peers", the artists who recognize the genuis of her work. Herbie Hancock has assembled a cast of players fit for the high bill of interpreting songs from an artist whose career has been a fluid exploration, much as Hancock employs a fluid sensibility to his arrangements on many of these classics.

Norah Jones opens the show with her rendition of " Court and Spark". It is a fine song in its own right; the only complaint may be that the immediacy of Joni's version is lost here. Composed in Canada, as a response to an actual experience, this song may have been better left off the list. When Mitchell speaks in first person, it's almost an impossible task for another to come in and half way rival the intense delivery, the plumbing of the depths that must occur when Mitchell sings the lyrics she has clearly lived.

Tina Turner purrs through "Edith and the Kingpin", making it the cover that it ought to be. This song demands either the original interpretation or an alternative that gets to the grit of the subject matter by sheer quality of voice. Turner was a perfect choice for this song.

Corrine Baily Rae is another highlight, singing " River" in a way that puts her stamp on the song, yet maintains the integrity of Joni's original release. Perhaps there is a bias on my part, with this being one of my all-time favorite Mitchell songs, but as noted in my review of this year's earlier Tribute, the version on that disc sounded reworked to the point that there were no longer vestigages of Joni left, although it sounded just like a James Taylor original would, leaving it a good song. However, on a tribute, that's far from the point.
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55 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stay a while October 30, 2007
Format:Audio CD
A perfect disc. Tina Turner's take on Edith and the Kingpin moves right into legend. Herbie applies his Mind to Joni Mitchell and mind to mind, art to art, something extraordinary quickens. Call the disc subdued, the better to raise an art. Here are two artists not led by their public, which is to say by fame. What happens therefore is something that reaches, and something worthwhile. Hancock takes Tea Leaf Prophecy and leads Joni back to her jazz self. Very cool. His playing throughout is musically mature, free, unafraid, especially in a redefining 'Both Sides Now' and a ravishing take on Mitchell's musically ebullient 'I Had a King', the two lengthiest tracks on the disc. In the end, and even inbetween, this is Herbie Hancock at peace, and he paints Joni Mitchell with master strokes. &check out T Turner's brilliant turn on Edith! It's a time-stopping bit of pure art that defines the reason for the record. Take your hat off, and your shoes.

2/10: CONGRATS Herbie! An Album of the Year Grammy for River! Like I said, it's a perfect disc.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Herbie Hancocks Latest Masterpiece February 11, 2008
Format:Audio CD
Herbie Hancock mining musical forms outside the Jazz canon should not be either a surprise nor source for concern among traditionalists. Whether exploring Electronica harder and more boldly that most of his contemporaries in the Seventies--except, of course, for Miles--or getting involved with Hip-Hop or nodding to Pop, Hancock's work may not always be of everyone's liking but it can always claim honesty and quality.

With Joni Letters, this is confirmed ... more yet, this is taken to another level of excellence. Having worked with Mitchell already in her album dedicated to Charles Mingus tunes, Herbie returns to Joni's songbook to reinterpret it, to sculpt new possibilities out of her poems--to call them lyrics might leave you with a limited impressions of the beauty and depth of her words.

The arrangements are bold yet always faithful to the originals. Edith and The Kingpin--probably the best track in an album full of gems--turned into a dark Jazz ballad and sung remarkably well by Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen reading The Jungle Line with a sense of sinisterness that those lyrics may not have revealed before, or his treatment of Both Sides Now are sufficient proof of it.

In addition to these tracks there's plenty more to bow to. Luciana Souza's rendition of Amelia is impeccable and soulful as well as River sung by Corinne Bailey Rae--although my nod for best version still goes to Madeline Peyroux and kd lang.

Last but definitely not least, there's Wayne Shorter sounding as lyrical and fierce in all the right places, and master Hancock himself. Herbie's playing is truly stunning throughout the record, confirming yet again his place among the greatest pianists of any genre.

If you are into Jazz but not Joni, this is where you'd want to come in. Even if the opposite is so for you, again, this is the right door to open. Welcome to the work of two geniuses.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Herbie keeps on Exploring November 18, 2007
Format:Audio CD
Lovers of jazz will need no introduction to Herbie Hancock. Maverick pianist from the days of the Miles Davis quintet, preferred keyboardist of the Davis fusion years and central energy of the seminal funk-jazz crossover album Head Hunters. Herbie Hancock has never been afraid to experiment with forms and genres, to explore the possibilities inherent in different musics. However fans of Joni Mitchell may not be so well acquainted with his work. Though Joni has never been an artist to shy away from incorporating elements of jazz into her folk and rock idiom she has never quite made the step from those idioms to jazz.. All of which makes the new Herbie Hancock recording, River: The Joni Letters an intriguing listen.

For this album Herbie Hancock has assembled an eclectic mix of musicians. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter, his fellow traveller from the fusion years, bassist Dave Holland, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and west-African guitarist Lionel Loueke. There are also appearances by a number of leading luminaries, Tina Turner, Corinne Bailey Rae, Luciana Souza, Norah Jones and Leonard Cohen. Mitchell herself guests on a track.

Projects like this can go astray, fall between the contrasting drives of their respective genres. Yet it is to Hancock's credit that this album delivers. It manages an adroit balance between accessibly and improvisation without sacrificing musical integrity. It plays with Hancock's jazzier instincts and the limitations of the rock and folk idiom. It elaborates on the subtlety of Joni Mitchell's melodies and provides a sophisticated setting for her often quite excellent lyrics. It manages to be neither a Joni Mitchell album nor a Herbie Hancock album. Instead it occupies a space somewhere between the two.

That is not to say it is without flaws.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars 2 Bona fide geniuses create trancendent music.
Joni Mitchell? Genius! Herbie Hancock? Ditto! 1+1=2. It's a no-brainer. Beautiful interpretations of great songs. Album of the year when it came out. No doubt about it.
Published 13 days ago by Richard James Schiffer
5.0 out of 5 stars Herbie Hancock is America's jazz piano poet laureate.
Herbie Hancock is America's poet laureate of the jazz piano. This recording is a mystical interpretation of the already intriguing songs of Joni Mitchell. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Thomas W. Samarati
5.0 out of 5 stars great stuff
Absolutely marvelous combination of familiar folk tunes with great jazz, I wish there were more competent combinations like this, but there arent too many Joni Mitchell's and... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Bill Goldstein
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Take on Joni
Well I think this is a very interesting take on Joni and I really don't get the one star reviewers. Sure its not straight ahead jazz but then Joni isn't either - she uses a jazz... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Brian Homer
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Decent, but not my favorite
River is an album that would make the jazz lover of Herbie happy, but will disappoint the fan of the tribute album. Read more
Published on May 21, 2011 by Overwhelmed Counselor
4.0 out of 5 stars Joni does it better but...
A very good group of musicians and singers on this worthy cd. Very nice subtle mucial nuances introduced on several of the tunes. Read more
Published on March 9, 2010 by Michael Gatti
5.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculously delicious
This album had me at the first song...I was at a friends house, waking up and heard Court and Spark as I my eyes were coming open...couldn't get enough of it all day. Read more
Published on January 30, 2010 by S. Moore
Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock for me was an unlikely mix but this album works. Hancock's interpertations of her works is superb. Lots of guests here, besides Ms. Read more
Published on December 13, 2009 by James L. Woolridge
2.0 out of 5 stars It's hard to reinterpret or cover .. this albums proves it again
Covering or reinterpreting a Joni Mitchell song is a dangerous endeavour in any circumstance, even when your name is Joni Micthell. Read more
Published on December 2, 2009 by J. ten Napel
4.0 out of 5 stars Great album!
I liked it very much... the covers are great and the total experience is very calm
Published on April 7, 2009 by S. Koifman
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