Hand It to Herbie

Houston's jazz-piano cats salute a giant in their field

Pamela York: "The main thing that stands out to me is his incredible imagination. His touch and his sense of swing are unsurpassed. That gives him the ability to make things sound so fresh. When I listen to his recordings from the '60s, and all throughout his career, they never have that dated sound. Plus, he can find something new to say with every band he plays in. All of that has really inspired me."

Ian Varley: "The types of things that he did, nobody was doing before him. He invented a whole new vocabulary as far as the funk and jazz style of piano playing. Not to mention the tunes he wrote, which were just total rock-solid tunes. Herbie has done more for advancing the state of jazz fusion playing and jazz fusion harmony than anybody. He came out of straight-ahead, and when he started incorporating the funk elements into the jazz playing that he was doing, it was light-years beyond anything that anybody else was doing at the time. And his voice as a player is so distinctive. When you hear Herbie playing on a track, you know immediately that it's Herbie."

Joe LoCascio: "Along with Bill Evans, Herbie has defined the modern school of jazz piano. He is the model that we measure ourselves by. You can hear the influences in Herbie's playing, Bill Evans among them, but also Wynton Kelly and Red Garland. He was able to bear those influences, but define a new direction in his own playing. Of course, the stuff with Miles was groundbreaking, but he was the penultimate sideman in the 1960s on all those great Blue Note sides. And I'm not even crossing over into his contemporary stuff and his genius as a producer and composer. That's another area entirely. I'm just talking pianistically. Like any great innovator, he manages to maintain the integrity of the idiom while defining a new direction."

Herbie Hancock (right) leads fellow men in black 
Michael Brecker (left) and Roy Hargrove toward new 
directions in music.
Herbie Hancock (right) leads fellow men in black Michael Brecker (left) and Roy Hargrove toward new directions in music.

Herbie Hancock appears Saturday, March 12, at Cullen Theater, Wortham Theater Center, 501 Texas. The show is sold out.

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