Herbie Hancock’s CareFusion Jazz Festival concert at Carnegie Hall on Thursday night was called “Seven Decades: The Birthday Celebration,” like a sequel in a fantasy-adventure franchise. Fittingly, it was a prestige production with an overspill of talent, but also a bit of a rehash, strangely hollow at the core.
Appearing first with some peers from the post-bop elite, Mr. Hancock, the pianist, then spent the second half plugging his latest adult-contemporary album, “The Imagine Project” (Hancock Records), which was released this week. He has done much the same thing with his festival bookings before, as recently as a couple of years ago. It hasn’t grown any less jarring; a truer title might have been “Hancock: A Tale of Two Herbies.”
That palpable division isn’t really true to the spirit of Mr. Hancock, who turned 70 in April, though he still seems a good deal younger. Over the course of his marquee career, he has been the rare important jazz musician with a secure, unconflicted relationship to popular music, an active partner in its development. The problem here, then, had a lot to do with the product. With its inspirational song list and earnest guest pairings, “The Imagine Project” is an album with the aesthetic compass of a disaster-relief telethon. More...
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