Top 10 Favorite Herbie Hancock Tracks

I missed his eightieth birthday by a day, but nonetheless, here is my humble tribute to maestro Hancock. For someone as widely beloved as he is, I feel like it’s hard to grasp the breadth of his significance because he’s been so versatile and so prolific. There are many things I appreciate about him, but the one thing I’ll focus on right now is his ability to inhabit worlds that might on the surface seem oppositional. The most obvious examples of this are genre-based (synth pop and bebop, hard funk and ethereal movie soundtracks, etc.), but it strikes me on a more molecular level. That is, even when he’s grooving (whether swing or funk or whatever else), there’s a flexibility to his harmonic and rhythmic choices that makes the music breathe; even when he’s playing things that are by definition looser, there’s a rhythmic intention and a melodic directness that make the music earthy. His unique (even while widely imitated) ability to straddle these lines is to my ear fundamental to why his personality shines through no matter the context.

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