“It’s difficult to separate the advantages of getting older as a human being from getting older as a musician,” Hancock reflects thoughtfully. “I think more about purpose now than I did when I was younger. Also, at this point, many of us look at how we were nurtured when we were younger by older musicians. Now we’re in the position to carry that ball and nurture and be concerned about the progress and development of younger musicians, too.”
As for the future, Hancock, now in his early seventies, will continue doing what he does best, evolving, experimenting and working. He’s got his memoirs to finish for a much-anticipated release next year, a lecture series coming up at Harvard University, more touring to do, and there is always new music to record. The only thing typical about Hancock’s career is his remarkable ability to remain defiantly atypical. Case in point, his next album will be a collaboration with producer/rapper Steven Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus, grandnephew of the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. Also on board is the genre-spanning monster on the bass guitar Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, a kindred spirit in the experimental sense who has worked with everyone from metal-punk crossover pioneers Suicidal Tendencies to gangsta rap progenitor Snoop Dogg.
In the end, musicians like Herbie Hancock, innovators in the truest sense of the word, are few and far between. You don’t so much interview them as you simply hit record, let the wisdom flow uninterrupted, and learn. If there is one piece of advice Hancock wants to impart, it is that up-and-coming musicians need to “develop themselves as a human being, because playing music is not about notes and rhythms. It’s about life. If you’re in the process of developing the art of life, as well as the art of music, then there’s much more of a potential of the palette that you draw from to be much more expansive, and much more rewarding and satisfying on a deep life level.”
Hopefully, the next generation is listening.
■ Herbie Hancock and his band play Thursday at the National Theater Concert Hall (台北國家音樂廳), No. 21-1, Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號). Doors open at 7:15pm, and the show starts at 7:30pm. Tickets range from NT$1,200 to NT$6,000, and can be purchased in advance at 7-Eleven, FamilyMart (全家便利商店), and Hi-Life (萊爾富) convenience stores.