There is a well-known photograph of Herbie Hancock aged 23, when he had just joined the Miles Davis Quintet. Taken by Blue Note label co-founder Francis Wolff, it shows Hancock in black and white, fresh-faced, sleeves rolled to the elbow and sitting at the piano. One hand is delicately placed on the keys in waiting, while his head is turned over his shoulder looking expectantly for direction. His face tilts into a shaft of light and his skin radiates its glow back to us in its youthful, untroubled smoothness.
Here in 1963, Hancock was already recording his third studio album, Inventions & Dimensions, a Latin-fuelled departure from the modal sound that saw the young pianist labelled a prodigy. In his ensuing 56-year career, Hancock has lost none of the calm, learned focus that marks out that early photograph. With his headline performance at London Jazz festival, he continues in the tradition of bringing up younger musicians – as Davis did with him – now featuring 24-year-old flautist Elena Pinderhughes.
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[This piece was published on 18/11/19]