Herbie Hancock (PhotoÂ Â© Becky Sapp/Wire Image)
By Joy Childs
Sentinel Contributing Writer
“The Imagine Project”, the new CD from multiple Grammy-winning artist and musical pioneer Herbie Hancock, is an unprecedented international recording and film project that features collaborations between the jazz giant and over a dozen superstars from every region of the planet.
What inspired this CD was “Imagine”,Â the song written and performed by The BeatlesÃ John Lennon in 1971 on his solo album of the same name. When Lennon was asked about this song in one of his last interviews, the Beatle, who was killed in 1980, declared Ã¬ImagineÃ® to be as good as anything he had ever written with the group. Â Many believe Lennon was lyrically asking us to imagine a world where complex issues that divide people, like race, gender, religion and politics, did not exist, that the planet would be a much better place where the world would “live as one.”
“Music truly is the universal language,” said Hancock at a recent Q&A at the Grammy MuseumÃs state-of-the-art Sound Stage. Â According to the jazz master, the Imagine Project explores that concept across the globe, uniting a myriad of cultures through song and positive creative expression. Â Hancock’s hope is that “the music will serve as a metaphor for the actions taken by the inhabitants of this wonderful planet as a call for world harmony on all levels.”
So, utilizing the universal language of music to express its central themes of peace and global responsibility, the musical collaborations on Ã¬ImagineÃ® combine HancockÃs genre-defying musical vision with the Ã¬localÃ® musical identity of cultures from around the world. Â Additionally, footage from each recording session has been shot in each locale, to be included in a planned documentary. Â “It’s been a magical ride working with such a multitude of amazing artists,” says Hancock.
A global musing on the power of song to bring people together, the recordings for the individual tracks of Â Hancock’s “The Imagine Project” took place in each collaboratorÃs home territory whenever possible, embodying the spirit, hearts, sounds, colors and flavor of each localeÃ³a complete sensory musical experience. Â “We ended up recording the album in seven countries, each of which added a unique flavor to the album,” explains Hancock.
The result is an album and film without borders, both a celebration and a call to action. “The Imagine Project” is the next step in HancockÃs extraordinary, groundbreaking career, an odyssey that extends from his early, straight-ahead Blue Note days with Miles Davis, to his fusionesque Maulana Karenga/Ã¬MwandishiÃ®/Ã¬space bandÃ® period, to his earthy-funky “Headhunters” days (which Hancock says is the first time he incorporated his very first college major – electrical engineering – into his music in the form of his synthesizer play), to his back-to-basics VSOP period, and beyond.
“Imagine” builds on his recent successes and recognition, including his astonishing 2007 Album of the Year Grammy for “River/The Joni Letters”; Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World; multiple award-winning album/film “Possibilities”; and Jazz Chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, amongst many others.
It is anticipated that Ã¬The Imagine ProjectÃ® will take numerous formsÃ³from traditional album to potential webisodes, film/documentary, real-time performances to special concert touring dates, including a 70th birthday tribute to Hancock at the Hollywood Bowl on September 1, featuring many special guests.
Veteran music producer Larry Klein (who has worked with Tracy Chapman, Luciana Souza, Joni Mitchell and was Hancock’s collaborator on “River”) serves as producer on a number of the album’s tracks.
While the CD and film will stand on one level as powerful testaments for the goals of world peace, humanity and tolerance along with respect for our planet, Herbie HancockÃs “The Imagine Project” shall remain, at its core, entertainment content that is creatively and emotionally deeply fulfilling. “Imagine”artists include John Legend, India Arie, Seal, Chaka Khan, K’Naan and Hancock’s longtime collaborator and fellow Buddhist, Wayne Shorter.
“The Imagine Project” is set for release on June 22 via the artistÃs own Hancock Records/Red, making it the perfect Fathers’ Day gift for all those jazz dads, uncles and granddads out there.