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The Imagine Project
Herbie Hancock The Imagine Project
Released 22 June 2010

Larry Klein
Herbie Hancock
Label Sony Music
Length 66:16
Genre Jazz
Website www.herbiehancock.com

Hancock's latest release deserves praise for what it seems to set out to do: use music as a common ground to unite individual musical cultures. His vision was that The Imagine Project would 'show the power and beauty of global collaboration as a golden path to peace'. The result is an eclectic collaboration with jazz, funk, rock, pop, blues and world music guests. It's just a shame that such an admirable concept comes across at times as insincere.

My first bit of advice when you listen to this is to skip the first track. I personally think that Lennon's 'Imagine' is one of those songs that you just don't touch. If you absolutely have to cover it, then don't take it for a stroll through Paul Simon's 'Graceland' with synthesisers and Pink feigning sincerity. In fact, you may as well skip track 2 while your finger's on the button.

There are high points in this covers album, including some great bass grooves reminiscent of a Head Hunters era, a diverse range of percussion instruments bringing interesting sounds from across the globe, and powerful vocalists throughout (Brazilian singer-songwriter Céu, Columbian Grammy-winner Juanes, Seal and Dave Matthews to name but a few). The zenith of the album is a beautiful, haunting collaboration with Lisa Hannigan and The Chieftains on Dylan's 'The Times, They Are a Changin''. Hancock's piano playing is gentle and uncomfortable, adding an eerie quality to the piece which gets resolved when The Chieftains have their say.  It is a wonderful arrangement of a classic tune.

Despite Hancock's clear vision when he embarked on The Imagine Project, it's very hard to know who he envisaged listening to it. He certainly wasn't thinking of his 'old school' fans, or even of jazz fans for that matter. At best we can hope that he was trying to appeal to a new audience, a bit like a Leonard Cohen of 'jazzland'. At worst, he was just in it for the money.

- Eimear Ní Néill