The first time most people my age ever heard of Herbie Hancock was through his 1983 hit electro-rap single, "Rockit." At the time, I had no idea (nor would my 8-year-old brain have been able to comprehend) that Hancock was already a jazz giant.
First gaining prominence in jazz circles after signing a solo deal with Blue Note Records in 1962, Hancock's career truly took off a year later after becoming a member of the Miles Davis Quintet. Since then, Hancock has been celebrated as one of the most innovative and forward-thinking musicians in the world.
In Herbie Hancock: Possibilities, the 14-time Grammy winner beautifully balances anecdotes from his personal life with the stories behind his influential musical work in and out of the studio. The book takes us from his early days growing up as a musical prodigy on Chicago's South Side all the way to his current position as one of jazz's elder statesmen.
The music geek meter is on high throughout the book. One of the most interesting sections finds Hancock laying out the painful (literally) circumstances around his firing from Miles Davis' band. I won't give it away, but the pianist was replaced by Chick Corea. The chapters covering Hancock's '70s work as a jazz-fusion trendsetter were also quite enjoyable, offering up insider stories about his time leading The Headhunters.
On the personal life front, Hancock candidly talks about battling a crack addiction in the '90s. It took an intervention staged by his longtime wife, Gigi Hancock, to finally inspire the musician to kick the potentially deadly habit.
But that personal crisis aside, the meat of Herbie Hancock centers on the music.
After finishing his book, I walked away with both a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the man's discography, and his mark on modern music. What more can you ask for from a musical memoir?