Herbie Hancock

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I really wanted to develop my career in such a way that I have the freedom to do what I want to do, and not have that considered bizarre. I think I'm finally at that point.

Hey, man; I would never dare to sing alone and unaided. I mean, nobody would want to hear the sound of my natural voice. But by singing through this new machine, I can mix what I sing with what I play [...] Now any keyboard player who can coordinate his playing with his singing can sing anything he wants to.

Herbert Jeffrey Hancock (born April 12, 1940, in Chicago), is an American jazz pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, composer, and occasional actor, known for his work with the Miles Davis Quintet and—from 1970s to the present—for his experiments with jazz fusion, funk, and electro styles.

Quotes[edit]

  • I remember we were at some club in Detroit, and playing all kinds of crazy things behind George, while behind Miles we played really straight. And Miles said afterward, "Why don't you play like that behind me?" That's when Tony and I began playing our little musical game behind Miles. After only four days, it turned around and he was leading us. And Miles began playing different after that. It was the most uncannily rapid adaptation I could ever imagine.
    • "Herbie Hancock: A Man for All Seasons, Be They Heavy or Lighthearted, Hip Jazz or Hip-Hop, Natural or Digital" by Bill Flanagan, Musician (January 1985) p. 58
  • I realized I could never be a genius in the class of Miles, Parker or Coltrane, so I might just as well forget about becoming a legend and just be satisfied to create some music to make people happy. I no longer wanted to write the Great American Masterpiece.
    • c. 1973, op. cit.
  • I'm not a chauffeur. Nobody would have bought any of my records if I were. I'd have had nothing to say. I'm supposed to be presenting things to the public, not accepting requests. I call the shots. They don't have to like it. I really wanted to develop my career in such a way that I have the freedom to do what I want to do, and not have that considered bizarre. I think I'm finally at that point. People are no longer surprised when I come out with something different. I've done it enough now. That's what I've wanted all this time.
    • Speaking with Bill Flanagan, c. January 1985; op. cit., p. 90
  • Hey, man; I would never dare to sing alone and unaided. I mean, nobody would want to hear the sound of my natural voice. But by singing through this new machine, I can mix what I sing with what I play on the synthesizer and it comes out sounding like you hear it on Sunlight. [...] What it all means is that I can sing "I love you, baby" down while playing different notes with the same rhythm up on the synthesizer ... Now any keyboard player who can coordinate his playing with his singing can sing anything he wants to ... and be able to do all the things singers can't do that instrumentalists can.
  • [B]y the time I actually heard the Hi-lo's, I started picking that stuff out; my ear was happening. I could hear stuff and that's when I really learned some much farther-out voicings – like the harmonies I used on Speak Like a Child – just being able to do that. I really got that from Clare Fischer's arrangements for the Hi-Lo's. Clare Fischer was a major influence on my harmonic concept... he and Bill Evans, and Ravel and Gil Evans, finally. You know, that's where it came from.
    • As quoted in Jazz-Rock Fusion, the people, the music (2000) by Julie Coryell and Laura Friedman, p. 204
  • I didn't know whether Wayne was crazy or a genius. I knew something was there, but I couldn't get a handle on it. We were playing some club outside of Boston. After the gig, I got a bottle of cognac and went back to his hotel room and we drank. And we talked for hours. And I began to see that there were word games that Wayne would play. His whole approach was much more like poetry, if anything, than how we normally perceive standard conversation. His way of speaking was on a much higher plane. I did come to the conclusion that he was a genius, not crazy.
    • On Wayne Shorter, as quoted in Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter (2004) by Michelle Mercer, pp. 103–104
  • A few months ago, Wayne Shorter and I were being interviewed after performing in a quartet at the Newport Jazz Festival. Before any questions were asked, the interviewer remarked that in previous interviews, responses from Wayne "tripped him out" so much that he would be discovering new meanings in Wayne's words for several days. He said that it wasn't just what Wayne said but how he said it that did the trick, and that he was looking forward to another mind-blowing experience. Even though I was the other interviewee, I was also looking forward to Wayne's profoundly creative and thought-provoking reactions to the questions. Reactions, not just answers, that are chock-full of wisdom. In his jovial way, and with an innately uncanny sense, Wayne says what a person needs to hear in order to expand himself. No, it's even better than that. It's more like, you feel that Wayne has gleaned deeper meaning from a question by using it as a springboard for an answer that will blow your socks off and perhaps change your life for the better. As a matter of fact, you might start to think, Wow, I didn't know my question had so much in it.
    • Op. cit., pp. IX–X
  • Oscar Peterson redefined swing for modern jazz pianists for the latter half of the 20th century up until today. I consider him to be the major influence that formed my roots in jazz piano playing. He mastered the balance between technique, hard blues grooving, and tenderness. You'll find Oscar Peterson's influence in the generations that come after him. No one will ever be able to take his place.
  • We all have natural human tendency to take the safe route—to do the thing we know will work—rather than taking a chance. But that's the antithesis of jazz, which is all about being in the present. Jazz is about being in the moment, at every moment. It's about trusting yourself to respond on the fly. If you can allow yourself to do that, you never stop exploring, you never stop learning, in music or in life.
    • Possibilities (2014) by Hancock, with Lisa Dickey, p. 2

About Hancock[edit]

  • I came back to New York looking for a piano player. I found him in Herbie Hancock. I had met Herbie about a year or so earlier when the trumpet player Donald Byrd brought him by my house on West 77th Street. He had just joined Donald's band. I asked him to play something for me on my piano, and I saw right away that he could really play. When I needed a new piano player I thought of Herbie first and called him to come over. I was having Tony Williams and Ron Carter over so I wanted to know how he would sound with them. They all came over and played every day for the next couple of days, and I would listen to them over the intercom system I had hooked up in my music room and all over the house. Man, they sounded too good together. On around the third or fourth day, I came downstairs and joined them and played a few things. [...] I knew right away this was going to be a motherfucker of a group.
  • Tony would lead the tempo, and Herbie was like a sponge. Anything you played was cool with him; he just soaked up everything. One time I told him that his chords were too thick, and he said, "Man, I don't know what to play some of the time." "Then, Herbie, don't play nothing if you don't know what to play. You know, just let it go; you don't have to be playing all the time!" He was like someone who will drink and drink until the whole bottle is gone just because it's there. Herbie was like that at first; he would just play and play and play because he could and because he never did run out of ideas and he loved to play. Man, that motherfucker used to be playing so much piano that I would walk by after I had played and fake like I was going to cut both of his hands off.
    • Miles Davis, op. cit., p. 275
  • A lot of times I would let Herbie play no chords at all, just solo in the middle register and let the bass anchor that, and the shit sounded good as a motherfucker, because Herbie knew he could do that. See, Herbie was the step after Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and I haven't heard anyone yet who has come after him.
    • Miles Davis, op. cit., p. 276

External links[edit]

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