Herbie Hancock: Possibilities

Doug Biro and Jon Fine's efficient if uninspired documentary chronicles the making of jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's 2005 album Possibilities, which featured his collaborations with a broad range of pop, rock, blues, funk, Latin and world-music figures, many of whose work appeals to a broader (and younger) audience than traditional-jazz listeners. The artists...read more

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Doug Biro and Jon Fine's efficient if uninspired documentary chronicles the making of jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's 2005 album Possibilities, which featured his collaborations with a broad range of pop, rock, blues, funk, Latin and world-music figures, many of whose work appeals to a broader (and younger) audience than traditional-jazz listeners. The artists include Christina Aguilera; Trey Anastasio of jam-band Phish; Irish musicians Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan; Sting; Annie Lennox; personable East-West fusion artist John Mayer; Carlos Santana; Angelique Kidjo, who combines West African musical traditions with funk, R&B and jazz; Paul Simon; and U.K. pop singer Joss Stone. Fine and Biro dutifully observe jams and recording sessions, interview the participants (who invariably declare that it's a dream come true to be working with Hancock) and hang around with the musicians during their downtime as they talk about their idols, inspirations and mentors. The talk is heavy on platitudes, but there's a certain charm in seeing Hancock and Lennox try to figure out what Paula Cole had in mind when she wrote "Hush, Hush, Hush," then just pick up the phone and ask. "We never got that," admits Lennox. "Now that we know… it does give [the words] a hell of a context, doesn't it?" Hancock shares his philosophy of making music — it's all about being open to possibilities, hence the album's title — and talks about his life and career, from the way his college courses in engineering laid the groundwork for his experiments with electronic instruments, to his five years playing with the legendary Miles Davis. And in all honesty, the archival clips — including a lengthy German TV broadcast of Hancock and the Miles Davis Quintet in 1962 and footage of an afro-ed and sequined-dashiki-clad Hancock performing a jazz-funk number from the 1973 fusion album Headhunters — are more interesting than the present-day material, which has the bland smoothness of a promotional press kit.

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