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Herbie Hancock at The Aretha, 3 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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When it comes to music icons, Herbie Hancock is up there with the greatest -- a genre-crossing, Grammy Award-winning keyboardist usually associated with jazz but whose biggest hit, "Rockit," fired an early volley in the rise of Electronic Dance Music.

The Chicago native's voluminous credits range from Donald Byrd to the Miles Davis Quintet, the music for Bill Cosby's Fat Albert projects and 2007's "River: The Joni Letters," a tribute to Joni Mitchell that was only the second jazz album to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

At 79 Hancock isn't slowing down, either. He's working on a set of new music with younger collaborators -- including current tourmate Kamasi Washington -- and he has a featured role in "Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes," an acclaimed documentary celebrating the 80th anniversary of the esteemed mostly jazz label...

• Hancock’s latest recordings -- which he may release individually or as an album -- have been collaborations with artists such as Washington, Robert Glasper, Thundercat and Terrace Martin, the latter of whom Hancock met during a session for the "Beyond the Notes" film. "It's hard to categorize or nail (the music) into one category. It definitely is jazz and has the spirit of jazz, but there's also rap, there's pop, there's vocals -- there's a lot of things you don't usually find on my records. Even the construction of these songs is different. I wanted to spread widely and invite people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions...and see what we can do together. It really is about bringing people together, which is what the world needs most these days, especially in the United States."

• Hancock adds that working with Washington this summer is part of that rewarding outreach. "It's a collaborative effort on stage with Kamasi 'cause he's sat in with us. That's one of the first things I mentioned to him -- "Maybe sometimes me or some of my guys in the band might want to sit in with you, you might want to sit in with us, and let's see what happens, like we do when we're home in L.A.' That's been happening so far on the tour, Kamasi sitting in with us. It's pretty natural and easy."

• Hancock adds that he wants to make his new music part of the discussion about issues facing the world, and the country, these days. "We're in deep trouble. We've got to keep people engaged in what America stands for. This whole thing about immigrants, telling people to go back to where they came from -- we'll have nobody left here but Native Americans. We’ve got a big problem with climate change, and we're so far behind it's gonna cost a fortune to (address) it. So in a way we're trying to address some of those issues with this music, and also just how people from very different places can work well and peacefully and productively together."

Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, 2600 Atwater St. at Chene, Detroit. $35-$75. 313-393-0292 or thearetha.com.

Web Site: www.thearetha.com

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