Observations on the Music and Life of Pianist/Composer Herbie Hancock ii ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION Observations on the Music and Life of Pianist/Composer

Alan Simon, Alan Simon, Herbie Hancock, Alan Simon
2013 unpublished
In researching the last 72 years of the life and career of Herbie Hancock, (born in Chicago, April 12, 1940) I have utilized newspaper and jazz magazine articles, the current literature, and candid interviews with the pianist and his bandmembers that I have transcribed. Video performances of concerts and films, where he was either playing piano and keyboards, or in some cases the composer behind the movie score, have shed light on his genius as a composer, pianist, and mentor for so many other
more » ... usicians in every field of music. In transcribing some of his works and solos in musical notation, studying his many LP's and CD's, over a period of three decades, and most importantly on the occasions I have had the privilege to hear him perform live, Herbie has become an important part of my life as a performer and fan. I have analyzed some of Hancock's compositions, studying the form, harmony, and melodic/rhythmic motives. The way in which he often uses the piano as an individual iii voice (hornlike) with equal importance as the tenor sax, trumpet, and trombone in his arrangements, has illuminated my understanding of his modus operandi. It is a cliché to cite Herbie Hancock's most famous tune known outside of jazz circles, "Chameleon," as a term to describe his musical ability to change colors at a moments notice stylistically. Upon reflection, there is some truth to this, but it goes much deeper. Unlike Woody Allen's character, Zelig, who has no individual identity and must take on the characteristics of people around him, Hancock possesses a natural ability to blend with any other musician, regardless of age, or style, and make them sound better, without ever losing his own unique identity. There is a seemingly endless fountain of individuality at his command; he has created genres, styles of composing and piano playing, while staying on the cutting edge of technology as far as keyboard instruments and recording techniques are concerned. This ability to please the wider audience, (selling records that go platinum), as well as the connoisseur, (winning the Downbeat polls as top pianist year after year-not to mention the respect of almost every jazz pianist on the scene)-his best of many worlds approach to music make him difficult to typecast-this drives purists on both sides of the fence up the wall. iv DEDICATION "I'm interested in human beings, and what kinds of avenues I can find that can possibly relate to people on various levels." 1 When one listens carefully, he/she can discover that dual blend of intellect and emotion that creates the perfect balance in all art. Hancock has found this almost "magical" balance that is inherent in any great musician, writer, poet, painter, architect etc. Herbie not only exhibits this in his compositions but in his pianism as well. There is also a certain humanity and a sense of joy and humor, that pervades his playing as well as his persona. Alan Simon "The thought of him being on the planet keeps me trying. He's a great musician but more than that, he's a very, very special person...very, very illuminating human being. He's got all the ego you need to accomplish things, yet it's balanced with this amazing amount of humility." Billy Hart interview with Alan Simon New Years Day, 2013