100 Jazz Profiles
1940 - present
Pianist. Easily spanning the worlds of jazz and contemporary rock and pop, Hancock is the most influential pianist in jazz today. He has made several of the greatest of all jazz albums, particularly in his 1960s relationship with Blue Note, defined jazz funk with his Head Hunters band of the 1970s, and topped the pop charts with Rockit in the 1980s.
A prolific composer , his hits include Watermelon Man, Maiden Voyage and Canteloupe Island. Hancock was born in Chicago, and was a talented pianist as a child, appearing as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the age of eleven. He gigged with many significant jazz players around Chicago, but came to New York in 1962 and joined trumpeter Donald Byrd, with whose band Hancock's career took off.
He landed a record deal with Blue Note and made albums throughout the 60s, although from 1963 to the end of the decade he was in Miles Davis's band. The 70s began with his Mwandishi group that took jazz to rock venues, and eventually Hancock formed his Head Hunters group, that brought rock and funk influences into jazz on such hits as Chameleon.
From the end of the 1970s he has combined his rock-influenced projects with a lively and varied career in acoustic jazz, playing with former Miles sidemen in his VSOP group, and touring as a duo with both Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea. His first big 21st century project reunited him with Rockit producer Bill Laswell in a hip-hop, drum'n'bass fusion album Future 2 Future.
Alyn Shipton: A New History of Jazz (London, Continuum) 2000
Head Hunters (Columbia 471239)
Suggested track: Watermelon Man
Official Herbie Hancock site
With bio, discography, up-to-date news and photos
Herbie Hancock on BBC Four
With a video interview and links
on radio 3
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.