Friday, 29 December 2017

Herbie Hancock - River The Joni Letters [Expanded Edition], album review

Beautiful as Beautiful Would

This expanded 2017 edition adds four tracks to the original 2007 release, an album I am hearing for the first time well down the line, as I often do, but what a wonderful line it is to drop into, whenever. It is a reverent affair from a long-time friend, and one jazz musician to another which is probably the most apt accolade as the songs themselves need no further declarations of excellence than they have had since their origins.

Opening Court and Spark is beautifully sung by Nora Jones, and second Edith and the Kingpin gets a sweetly soulful cover by Tina Turner. Hancock is gentle and refrained [that reverence perhaps] throughout, though always empathetic, and Wayne Shorter on sax is smoothed out but soothingly so whether on Joni tracks, like Both Sides Now, or his own Nefertiti, though here there is some upbeat interplay with Hancock’s piano. Corrine Ray Bailey is pretty with River where there are also some even more pretty harmonies.

The Tea Leaf Prophecy [Lay Down Your Arms] is sung by Joni and this is a welcome additional anchor where none is needed. The original release closes on The Jungle Line narrated by Leonard Cohen, fittingly from these two Canadian poets.

The additional tracks are A Case of You, another gentle cover [and the terms ‘saccharine’ and ‘somnolent’ have been used elsewhere in a review about this album, which I get…]; All I Want sung by Sonja Kitchell – a sassy enough version – then Harlem in Havana and I Had a King, these last two at eight minutes each more deserving of the ‘somnolent’ observation so perhaps not that expansive other than literally.

But overall, as it would be, a beautiful album of beautiful music.

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