Chicago-born pianist/jazz innovator Herbie Hancock launched his career at the tender age of 11, when he performed a Mozart concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Over the next four decades, he’s played with the likes of Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, Sonny Rollins, and Wayne Shorter. On September 25, the 61-year-old jazzmaster released his 33rd solo album, Future2Future.
AW: Describe Future2Future.
HH: It’s my first reply to the question, Where’s the new music for the new century, the new millennium? Bill Laswell, the co-producer, and I have created a collaboration between young, cutting-edge musicians [who are working] on innovative ideas that have roots in hip-hop, new electronic-ambient ideas, and jazz influences … and seasoned musicians like Wayne Shorter, Jack DeJohnette, and myself, along with the musicians that bridge the generations, like Chaka Khan and bassist Charnet Moffett. It’s music with no boundaries.
AW: Is it hard to keep coming up with the innovations in jazz compositions?
HH: Not anymore, since I now have freed myself from thinking inside the box. I can see many ways of looking at things because I think of myself as a human being, not as a musician — which is what I do — not who I am.
AW: What musician has had the most influence on your career?
HH: Not only musicians — like Donald Byrd and Miles Davis — but philosophers, my parents, friends have also been an influence.
AW: What do you think about the state of jazz today?
HH: Jazz is a tree born of courage, compassion, and creativity from the human spirit. Those qualities are still there and, at the moment, growing with great vitality.
AW: Anything you miss about the old days?
HH: Jam sessions.
AW: Anything you don’t miss?
HH: Cheap microphones in dingy clubs.
AW: Where do you go from here?
HH: Forward, always forward, if my heart is in the right place. I hope we all look forward to creating a happy life for ourselves and for each other. It’s going to take a lot of work. Let’s get busy.