This week’s Rhythm Planet show is about cross-pollination, musically speaking. To paraphrase the English poet, John Donne, no musician is an island, apart from the main.
We begin with jazz composer/pianist Ahmad Jamal and his 1956 song, “New Rhumba,” which Miles Davis loved enough to include in his first big band collaboration with composer/arranger, Gil Evans and his orchestra. The 1959 version by these two follows. Miles loved Ahmad’s style, describing it as spare and never overdone with unnecessary notes—just elegant and witty.
We then explore some of Herbie Hancock’s influences, which I learned of during an interview we once did for The Imagine Project. Herbie loved George Shearing’s chord voicings and harmonies. Herbie told me that in his youth, his mother kept telling him to listen to a certain British jazz pianist, which he kept putting it off. Then one day, upon finally discovering the work of a great pianist by the name of George Shearing, he'd burst into the living room to tell his mother, who, in turn gave Herbie a “hear me now, believe me later” look. Both Shearing and Hancock were raised on classical music. Just listen to Shearing quoting Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 on his version of “Tenderly,” from a 1950s Capitol Recording.
Next up, we’ll listen to Herbie Hancock himself, with a song from the 1984 film, Round Midnight, about the late jazz pianist, Bud Powell, featuring the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin doing his wordless vocals. It’s lovely.
Afterwards, we turn to another group that influenced Herbie Hancock with their innovative a capella four-part harmonies, The Hi-Lo’s, singing Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “Something’s Coming” from the 1957 musical, West Side Story.
I just love the recombinant DNA that is so much part and parcel in jazz improvisation. It never gets boring. I hope you enjoy the music!