Herbie Hancock’s tribute to Joni Mitchell “River” is gorgeous in every way, and wholly deserving of its recent grammy (one of only two jazz records to have won Album of the Year in the past 50 years, yeesh). Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen, Norah Jones, Joni herself, Hancock’s lush keyboards, horns by Wayne Shorter… what more could an old Joni head want? The kindling power of the album inspired Salon’s Gary Kamiya to write a moving muse on the duality of rock and jazz in his life
Luckily, around this time the rest of the high-culture spinach on my plate started to taste better, which encouraged me to stick with jazz. I had known, in a dutiful art-history way, that Cézanne’s landscapes were better than pretty ones by some officially accredited hack; now I started to actually see them and like them. As a sophomore in high school I had bought an old 78 rpm set of Debussy’s “Iberia” because I thought it was an antiquarian ticket to cultural gravitas; now I realized that you got an incredible rush out of the end of the first movement. The kicks started getting easier to find. The same thing happened with jazz. The dusty old high-culture drugs kicked in there too. I might have started out listening to jazz because it was good for me, but the more I did, the more I realized that I liked it. Those schmaltzy tunes turned out to conceal beautiful modulations — quieter, less obvious than those in rock, but with a complex logic that grew on you. As I learned to follow the mathematics of jazz, I started to be able to listen without so much interior strain.
Worth a read.