Like the rest of the pantheon in the golden age of ’60s jazz, Herbie Hancock should have died in a grand, momentously tragic way. 1973 was his year to go. It would have been glorious: a run with Miles Davis’s post-bop quintet that redefined jazz with In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, a brilliant decade of collaborations with music’s finest and a hotest new funky piece of fusion called Head Hunters. Yep, he could have escaped mortality with an untarnished image.
But something funny happens when old man death doesn’t come a knockin’. Like Stevie Wonder up on display playing for Will Smith, Sting looking stoic for a Puff Daddy performance or Santana teaming up with Rob Thomas, Herbie Hancock finally caved in and did a collaborative record. Joining together in the spirit of middle age, the aforementioned greats (Herbie, Stevie, Sting and Carlos) team up for an undeniably average record.
Hancock is joined on Possibilities not just by former superstars, but some young bucks as well. John Mayer, Christina Aguilera, Jonny Lang and Damien Rice all make appearances.
And while this album totes an abundance of names, it’s more or less a lost jumble of ideas. Each song sits as a backdrop for individual jamming and doesn’t place itself within the whole.
The diamond in the rough among this mess of sound is “I Do it For Your Love,” a solemn, reflective ballad sung by Paul Simon. Simon hits subtle changes in color and mood in the melody and again reminds us that Garfunkel was merely a funny word conjoined with the name of a gifted singer. But of course this is a small oasis of joy among the boring.
Simon’s respect for jazz singing doesn’t make up for the usually bombastic resonance of the others who make Hancock a guest on his own album. Formulaic feel, good pop and a semblance of brilliance from jazz’s lost piano man lends itself to an album that confirms the dissipation of America’s unique, original genre.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars