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Ahead of his Australian tour, Herbie Hancock tells SBS French he's excited by the ongoing transformation of jazz and why the adaptive ever-changing is an antidote to fear.
By
Christophe Mallet

26 Mar 2019 - 10:48 AM  UPDATED 29 Mar 2019 - 2:31 PM

Set to tour Australia this May and June, Herbie Hancock is a legend in the world of jazz and there is no denying that.

Born in 1940, his career spans multiple decades, during which he has embraced new genres and new technologies, but also new ways of thinking.

Speaking to SBS French Hancock says he's excited to see the ways jazz is changing, and the new approaches musicians are bringing to the genre.

"I love the fact that jazz is continuing to grow in different directions, and adapting to different situations, moving with the times and expanding," he says. "I think that’s terrific. It shows the real vitality and health of jazz."

As such, Hancock says he's always happy to pass knowledge on to the new generations of musicians, much like what Miles Davis did for him as a young man.

"When I was young, people like Miles Davis and other musicians who were on the scene before me, they shared information that they had... This is something that is my responsibility to continue because it’s such a healthy thing to do for the life of great music. It’s a healthy thing to do for life itself."

Listen to SBS French's full interview with Herbie Hancock above

Artists such as Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper and Terrace Martin stand out to Hancock as individuals pushing jazz in new directions and finding new audiences, particularly in the case of Martin, who regularly works in the hip hop realm.

"[Terrace Martin] has shared his young experience with jazz with rappers like Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, and putting a whole new kind of spin on hip hop... Jazz has always borrowed from others and shared itself with others too… It’s not just one single direction, it’s a multitude of directions the come from a common root."

On the subject of social change and harsh political fighting in the US and around the world, SBS French asks Hancock if he is inspired by these ongoing changes, or whether we should expect a rebellion in music.

"I think this is a moment when we have rebellion in more areas than music," he says. "There are huge questions about racism, human rights, the rights of women, the rights of LGBT people, and the rights of human beings all over the world."

Hancock says fears of the automation of work or environmental collapse are in the forefront of peoples' minds and that cultural experiences such as jazz can provide an antidote to that fear. But how exactly?

"Jazz is a music that at its root is not only rhythmic. It’s a music that is about sharing and about caring about what other people are going through — what other people are expressing, and creating a beautiful garden of possibilities and expressions. In that way, I think it’s a healthy antidote that could lead to much more hope and promise for the future."

Hancock also reflects on changes in the way people consume music, particularly the rise of streaming services. He says he is fine with it.

"This is today. We run into a lot of problems when we try to hold onto old ideas just because we got comfortable with them. So, it may be a little uncomfortable at first making these adjustments, but this is how we grow. We can’t grow unless we have things challenging the way things were.

"If you don’t do that, you’ll be caught in the thicket with the weeds, and nobody wants that."

Asked for a track recommendation, Hancock struggles to pick just one tune to listen to, but he suggests Miles Davis' In a Silent Way, Wayne Shorter's Footprints or "any number of tracks from Kendrick Lamar".

Concert

HERBIE HANCOCK – LIVE IN AUSTRALIA

FRIDAY MAY 31

RIVERSIDE THEATRE, PERTH

 

SUNDAY JUNE 2

QPAC CONCERT HALL, BRISBANE

 

FRIDAY JUNE 7

CANBERRA THEATRE

 

SATURDAY JUNE 8 & SUNDAY JUNE 9

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL

 

MONDAY JUNE 10

VIVID LIVE, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

 

Tickets and more information at livenation.com.au.