Herbie Hancock
(b. April 12, 1940)

Herbert Jeffrey Hancock is an Academy Award and multiple Grammy Award winning jazz pianist and composer from Chicago, Illinois, USA. Hancock is one of jazz music's most important and influential pianists and composers. He has embraced elements of rock, funk, and soul while adopting freer stylistic elements from jazz.

As part of Miles Davis's "second great quintet", Hancock helped redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section, and was one of the primary architects of the "post-bop" sound. Later, he was one of the first jazz musicians to embrace synthesizers and funk. Yet for all his restless experimentalism, Hancock's music is often melodic and accessible; he has had many songs "cross over" and achieve success among pop audiences.

Like many jazz pianists, Hancock started with a classical music education; Hancock studied from age seven. His talent was recognized early, and he played the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 5 in D Major at a young people’s concert with the Chicago Symphony at age eleven.

Through his teens, Hancock never had a jazz teacher. Instead, around college age, Hancock grew to like jazz after hearing some Oscar Peterson and George Shearing recordings, which he transcribed on his own time, and which developed his ear and sense of harmony. Hancock also listened to other pianists, including McCoy Tyner, Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans, and studied recordings by Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Lee Morgan.

After Hancock spent three and a half years studying musical composition at Grinnell College, Donald Byrd hired Hancock in 1961. (He later received a double major in music and electrical engineering from Grinnell in 1971.) Hancock also received a degree from Manhattan School of Music. The pianist quickly earned a reputation, and played subsequent sessions with Oliver Nelson and Phil Woods. He recorded his first solo album Takin' Off for Blue Note Records in 1962. "Watermelon Man" (from Takin' Off) was to provide Mongo Santamaria with a hit single, but crucially Takin' Off was to catch the attention of Miles Davis, who was at that time assembling a new band.

Hancock received considerable attention when, in 1963, he joined Miles Davis's "second great quintet." This new band was essentially Miles Davis surrounded by fresh, new talent. Davis personally sought out Hancock, who he saw as one of the most promising talents in jazz. The rhythm section Davis organized was young but effective, comprising bassist Ron Carter, seventeen year old drummer Tony Williams, and Hancock on piano. After George Coleman and Sam Rivers each taking turns at the saxophone spot, the quintet would gel with Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone. This quintet is often regarded as one of the finest jazz ensembles, and the rhythm section has been especially praised for their innovation and flexibility.

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