This Amazon.com 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.
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