Herbie Hancock (featuring Norah Jones): Court and Spark


Court and Spark


Herbie Hancock (featuring Norah Jones)


River: The Joni Letters (Verve 10063)

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Herbie Hancock (piano), Norah Jones (vocals), Wayne Shorter (soprano sax), Dave Holland (bass), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums).

Composed by Joni Mitchell


Recorded: New York and Hollywood, CA, no date given (CD released in 2007)


Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

The ingredients here are provocative: Joni Mitchell's poetic composition, Norah Jones' remarkable voice, Wayne Shorter's angular soprano sax, Herbie Hancock's modern jazz keyboard conception. But each of these individuals has such a distinctive and uncompromising style, we wonder if they can mesh. No need to fear. Hancock's tribute CD, River: The Joni Letters is a grand artistic statement, with everybody shining. Norah Jones takes on a darker, huskier tone, and offers one of the most authoritative jazz interpretations of a Mitchell composition I have heard to date. Hancock is lyrical in his comping behind Jones, but when Shorter enters, he rumbles and clashes and pushes the harmonies to the brink . . . and beyond. Norah returns in majestic form, and briefly insists on decorum. But Hancock will not be held back and insists on adding his spark to Norah's court. The pianist takes off on the wings of Scriabin and Prokofieff, crafting a remarkable solo, edgy and unsettled. Jones comes back once again, unperturbed, her voice full of drama. But the coda belongs to Wayne and Herbie who coo and whisper. Seven-and-a-half minutes of aesthetic rapture, but (as it says on the shampoo bottle) use and repeat as necessary. Trust me, you'll find it necessary.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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