Herbert Jeffrey Hancock (born April 12, 1940) is a jazz pianist and composer from Chicago, Illinois, United States. Hancock is one of jazz music’s most important and influential pianists and composers. He embraced elements of rock, funk, and soul while adopting freer stylistic elements from jazz.
As part of Miles Davis’ “second great quintet” Hancock helped redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section, and was later one of the first jazz musicians to embrace synthesizers and jazz funk. Yet for all his restless experimentation, Hancock’s music is often melodic and accessible; he has had many songs “crossover” and achieve success among pop audiences.
Probably the most influential era in Herbie Hancock’s extensive career is with the ”Headhunters” ensemble during the mid-late 70’s, including (among others) Paul Jackson on bass, Bennie Maupin on saxophones, Harvey Mason on drums, ”Wah Wah” Watson on guitar and Bill Summers on percussion.
His 2007 tribute album, River: The Joni Letters won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
Early life and career
Like many jazz pianists, Hancock started with a classical music education; Hancock studied from age seven. His talent was recognized early, and he played the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 5 at a young people’s concert with the Chicago Symphony at age eleven.
Hancock's best-known solo works include "Cantaloupe Island", "Watermelon Man" (later performed by dozens of musicians, including bandleader Mongo Santamaría), "Maiden Voyage", "Chameleon", and the singles "I Thought It Was You" and "Rockit". His 2007 tribute album River: The Joni Letters won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, only the second jazz album ever to win the award, after Getz/Gilberto in 1965.
Hancock practices Nichiren Buddhism and is a member of the Buddhist association Sōka Gakkai International. As part of Hancock's spiritual practice, he recites the Buddhist chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo each day. In 2013, Hancock's dialogue with Wayne Shorter and Daisaku Ikeda on jazz, Buddhism and life was published in Japanese.
On July 22, 2011, at a ceremony in Paris, Hancock was named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the promotion of Intercultural Dialogue. In 2013 Hancock joined the University of California, Los Angeles faculty as a professor in the UCLA music department where he will teach jazz music.
Hancock is the 2014 Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. Holders of the chair deliver a series of six lectures on poetry, "The Norton Lectures", poetry being "interpreted in the broadest sense, including all poetic expression in language, music, or fine arts." Previous Norton lecturers include musicians Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky and John Cage. Hancock's theme is "The Ethics of Jazz."
Herbert Jeffrey "Herbie" Hancock (born April 12, 1940) is a jazz pianist and composer. He embraces elements of rock and soul while adopting freer stylistic elements from jazz.
In 1969, Hancock composed the soundtrack for the Bill Cosby TV show Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.