Future 2 Future
Herbie Hancock is one of those rare geniuses in modern-day music who is not only hard to pin down but who also refuses to rest on his laurels. The legendary jazz pianist seems to have a masochistic need to challenge himself and his fanbase by stretching the definitions of his genre and wholeheartedly keeping outside of it if it doesn’t fit his need for musical exploration.
As a mere prodigy, Sir Herbie, along with the likes of Horace Silver and Hank Mobley, was one of the first to bring the Ray Charles R&B influence to bop. While still a young man, he went along the mad magic Miles Davis ride, producing spaced-out funk jazz that only now (30-odd years later) people are finally starting to understand — with the helping ones-and-twos hands of DJs. With his Headhunters, he took funk, jazz, and disco to a whole new level. Then, in the ’80s, the master gave everyone Future Shock, paying homage to hip-hop (the nascent form still being dissed at the time). With incredible, iconoclastic vigor, he’s delved into everything — including world music — while not being afraid to crank out a Gershwin tune.
Knowing all that, it’s not surprising that Herbie Hancock has now released an electronic album. It really was just a matter of time. And Future 2 Future can hold its head high among other Herbie classics like Maiden Voyage, The Headhunters, and Future Shock. Enlisting the help of fellow mad professor, Bill Laswell, the two have concocted a formula it will take jazz heads decades to decipher.
The disc opens with a Frikyiwa Afro-electronic tune, “Kebero Part 1,” that gives a respectable nod Angelique Kidjo’s way. “Tony Williams” pays homage to Hancock’s late running partner by constructing a challenging yet enjoyable groove around one of the drummer’s old solos. Another one of his boys, Wayne Shorter, plays tenor and soprano saxophones on the aforementioned track and “Be Still” respectively. Chaka Khan electrifies a Bukem-esque atmospheric cut, “Wisdom.” A Guy Called Gerald, Charnett Moffett, Grandmixer DXT, Carl Craig, and Karsh Kale all help to illuminate this brilliant album. The supernova on this CD, though, has to be “This is Rob Swift,” where Drummer Supreme, Jack DeJohnette, lays down a phat-ass groove along with Laswell on bass while Hancock goes super-meaty on keys and Swift scratches like he’s got a head full of lice.
It is a shame that a lot of jazzheads probably won’t give Future 2 Future a listen. Hancock proves what DJs and dancers have been saying since ’93: jazz is perfectly suited for electronic dance music. Herbie’s keyboard playing is amazing, knowing exactly when to punch in the right notes to accentuate the beat, flourishing at the perfect moment, and knowing when to insert spaces when the moments calls. These explorations in musical space are examples that jazz musicians would be especially adept in teaching the electronica world when it comes to song construction. It’s also an interesting territory jazz can explore to reinvigorate itself — if only the community will let Hancock and this album lead the way.
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