Herbie HancockHD Net is one of my favorite television channels now that I’m living the high-def lifestyle. Their coolest programming centers around a healthy collection of concert performances that air on the channel. Recently, Herbie Hancock was featured and he was talking about his latest recording, “Possibilities” and it’s been one of my favorite new projects I’ve listened to in quite some time.

Hancock is a living legend and multiple Grammy award winner and the 67 year-old artist shows no signs of slowing down. He catapulted his career when he began performing with the Miles Davis quintet in the sixties at the age of 21. He was one of the architects of the jazz-fusion movement in the seventies blending jazz and synthesizers. And GenX may remember his vanguard video and hip-hop anthem “Rock-It” and for baby-boomers – he produced most of the soundtrack for Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoons.

Always the innovator – I’ve seen Hancock perform live three times now – twice in Knoxville with The HeadHunters (his jazz fusion group) and Wayne Shorter (whom he heralds as his most influential instrumentalist). I was front stage in Asheville a few years ago at Thomas Wolfe and consider it surreal everytime I get the chance catch him live.

“Possibilities” is a dream recording for Hancock as he’s cooked up a dream roster. Must be nice to play gigs with anyone you please and he had no problem attracting some of the most distinctive artists of the modern era.

He told interviewers, “I didn’t want to put together just another jazz album.” Instead he wanted to see what would come about by pairing his abilities with the his best of other contemporary performers and what a lineup! The recording features;

Christina Aguilera
Carlos Santana
John Mayer
Joss Stone
Annie Lennox
Paul Simon
Jonny Lang
Brian Eno
Wayne Shorter
Trey Anastasio
– plus others

Each artist performs either a new arrangement of an old song or completely original compositions that blossomed from these sessions that ranged from major recording facilities to home studios and one event that was recorded live while artists where on different sides of the country.

Of course, I enjoyed the performance by Sting who reworked one of his original songs, Sister Moon with an African rhythm. Paul Simon recreates the magic from Graceland and Annie Lennox gives a haunting performance with Hush, Hush, Hush. Carlos Santana and several percussionists deliver a rousing instrumental and John Mayer streams a groovy song called ‘Stitched Up.” Christinia Aguilerra has one of the strongest vocal performances on this project and continues to fascinate me with her beefy and gutsy soul.

There’s plenty of variety on this recording too. In many respects, the playing is understated too and that’s surprising for a jazz artist. There are only a few moments where Hancock exudes any stellar solos and for the most part it’s a real interplay of artists and the tone – each artist moving outside their comfort zone to create something altogether fresh.

Several of the standout recordings feature performers are are new sensations to me including Damien Rice and Raul Midon among others.

Irish Folk Artist Damien Rice performs with Lisa Hannigan on a Billie Holiday song called, “Don’t Explain.” His voice has a trans-gender quality and it’s really hard to define whether the voice is male or female from time to time and I especially enjoy rediscovering a new Holiday classic.

Raul Midon is a talented vocalist who appears on Possibilities and he re-animates the Steve Wonder pop song, “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and I can’t help but play it over-and-over again as his delivery is spiritually moving.

Possibilities “Possibilities” is another extraordinary work from Herbie Hancock and it’s a great sampler of extraordinary talent who convene to create several enduring songs. I’m so glad artists like this use the camera too to record the experience and the DVD makes the appreciation of the music a bit deeper as you get a glimpse of the creative process and the events that went into this recording. One added and moving bonus on the DVD are live recordings of Hancock and Wayne Shorter improvising on the grounds of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – these moments were truly breath-taking for jazz fans.

Hancock, like his music is a chameleon and he keeps making great recordings and the work here on this CD reminds me of a modern-day Miles Davis. It wasn’t about the talent of Herbie Hancock, but rather the impact that Hancock would have on the other players and the music here on this disc are certainly worth an esteemed spot on the shelf.