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Published: 2005/10/14
by Pat Buzby

Possibilities – Herbie Hancock

Hancock Music/Hear Music

I don’t go to Starbucks often, but I don’t insist on staying away from the place either. Granted, they may prey on people’s love for the familiar in their quest to crowd out the competition, but if part of their plan is to get decent coffee and mildly classy music into every city, Morgan Spurlock won’t have an easy time putting them to shame. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, though; at this point, there isn’t one on the way to my work, and their prices and the quality of their product aren’t competitive enough to make em worth a special outing.

Herbie Hancock has chosen to market this new CD, comprised of duets with pop/rock musicians, primarily at Starbucks. It’s fitting, then, that Possibilities is to his best music what Starbucks is to coffee.

The opener, “Stitched Up,” with John Mayer, is actually a fairly promising start to this disc. No one will mistake Mayer for Bob Dylan, and no one will mistake this song for a meaningful application of Hancock’s talent, but it’s a nice little tune. Unfortunately, Mayer seems to have left the fun in his pocket on his way out the door. After a predictable Santana appearance, Christina Aguilera begins the parade of pop singers trying their darnedest to show how inventive and emotional they can be for this meeting with the great jazz man. Combine that with a dominance of somber moods (something’s awry when the most upbeat songs on a disc were written by Sting and U2) and you have the musical equivalent of a series of job interviews. Hancock gets in some erudite piano here and there, but why dig for it when you can get as much information from one minute of Maiden Voyage?

There are a few glimmers at the end of the disc. The funereal treatment of “I Just Called To Say I Love You” is of a piece with the rest of the disc, but there’s an ambient coda which at least gives a side angle on the mood of this all-too-familiar song. And on “Gelo No Montana” (which, intriguingly enough, is the final song on the official release, but switches places with “I Just Called” to become the penultimate cut on the promo version), Trey Anastasio steps in for a quiet collaboration which suffers a bit from the guitarist being as intimidated as most of Hancock’s other duet partners (although perhaps there’s another reason why Trey hardly plays a note on the entire piece), but seems at least headed for something interesting. Hey guys: how about touring together?

Too often, though, the Possibilities under consideration here evidently have more to do with sales and Grammy nominations than stimulating music. If you find yourself in a music mood at Starbucks, get the Dylan live disc, then try and find a good record store to catch Hancock’s worthier moments. Perhaps there’ll be another coffeehouse nearby, too.

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