Herbie Hancock

Possibilities (Vector Recordings/Hancock Music)

Herbie Hancock
Possibilities is not a jazz album. Herbie Hancock, one of America's finest jazz pianists, took pains to concoct a diverse, modern pop album with world-music overtones and jazz undertones. Forgoing "piecemeal" recording (e.g., Sinatra's Duets discs), Hancock went around the globe for live collaborations with each of this album's many guest stars, using only his economical, magically lyrical piano as the unifying factor.

The successes: "Safiatou" features the rousing, ebullient vocals of West African singer Angelique Kidjo trading off with Carlos Santana's guitar, the latter abounding with the fire of Santana's mid-'70s heyday; Sting tries jazz singing, and darned if it isn't a nice surprise -- his "Sister Moon" finds him phrasing like a saxophonist, his voice spiraling subtly like wisps of smoke; the standard "Don't Explain" is given a traditional, 11th-hour treatment, with Damian Rice and Lisa Hannigan elegantly caressing each word. The misfires: "Stitched Up" finds John Meyer bland and smug; on "Song for You," Christina Aguilera overemotes the way William Shatner overacts; and Hancock sounds lost amid the respective blues and soul boisterousness of Jonny Lang and Joss Stone on "When Love Comes to Town." Possibilities holds little for hard-core jazz devotees, but unbiased pop fans will think they've gone to Billboard Awards heaven.

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