I was chatting with Herbie Hancock last night, and his recent Grammy wins came up. He was tickled to make it through “the mine field” of competition for the “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” cat. There, he stood shoulder to shoulder with Gaga and Beyonce, Elton & Leon, Em and B.O.B., Katy and Snoop – it is a minefield of sorts. Any of ’em could have swooped in and grabbed the Grammy. But the famed keyboardist snuck through, and he was surprised. The compeititon wasn’t exactly light over in the “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” realm either. Keith Jarrett, Wynton Marsalis and Hank Jones were all in the running (“God, I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Hank Jones,” he said, “he was a major influence on me”). Hancock snatched that as well.
But what made him happiest was the domination of one Esperanza Spalding. Perhaps you’ve heard: the young bassist won the “Best New Artist” competition. And Hancock went ape shit.
“I was thrilled! I started crying; I had tears in my eyes. Her record, Chamber Music Society, is un-fucking-believable. She’s like 27 years old or something. It’s one of the finest records I’ve ever heard – I’ll tell you that. I listen and go “Oh my god, what is she doing? Incredible!” Justin Bieber – there’s no way he’s near that universe. It’s so far above him. He’s extremely talented, great voice, nice guy. But will he be doing something like that when he’s 27?”
“I can’t wait to play Esperanza’s record for Wayne Shorter. He lives about eight minutes from me. I don’t think he’s heard it. He will flip! I had the record for about four months, and never had the time to play it. I put it on after she won. It was “What, I had no idea she was that far along.” I was blown away. She absolutely deserved it. I’ve played with her on a few occasions, and she’s a knockout. But what she and Gil Goldstein did on that record… The arrangements, the strings. So clever, so original. Harmonically impressive. Know what? She immediately inspired me to write some stuff. She’s got me writing! I’ll have to tell her that. “