While reader J Strell admits, “I’m looking for numerous references to ‘Giant Steps’ and his friendship with Bruce Lee”, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s LA Times blog is already a tad more interesting than say, Mark Madsen’s. Earlier this week, Jabbar paid homage to Herbie Hancock’s improbable Album Of The Year victory at last Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
‘River: The Joni Letters” represents Herbie’s expansion beyond the race- based straitjackets of nomenclature imposed on American musicians. American music has such a rich and varied foundation it is really grotesque to try to define it as R & B or rock or pop or metal or Latin or Reggae or country or blues. For example, the blues and country evolved in exactly the same environment– i.e. the Mississippi Delta, West Texas, Nashville, Tenn., and New Orleans, to name a few. But for some reason, the music of Elvis must be regarded as different from Chuck Berry even when both artists embrace the same regional and artistic roots.Maybe Herbie’s success will make a few a more people think about the absurdity of these genre designations. After all, it is the clash of America’s various cultural heritage that give us such a rich and varied musical landscape.
Herbie certainly inherited the mantle of Art Tatum and Bud Powell, but his world is so much bigger than that. My hope is that as Americans our ability to appreciate our enormous musical choices will continue to expand. Don’t forget, Satchmo, Johnny Cash, the Duke and Frank Sinatra are watching … and listening!