CD Reviews: Hancock Transforms Mitchell's Song

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'River: The Joni Letters'

Herbie Hancock (Verve)

In many ways, this album of mostly Joni Mitchell songs embodies what jazz is all about. Great personnel, songs and interpretations make this album a delight. Pianist Herbie Hancock provides strikingly fine piano work, but does it without insisting on showing virtuoso bits of flash. If fact, his support to saxophonist Wayne Shorter on "Court and Spark" perhaps shows his genius more than anything. He also gets great credit for his interpretations of these songs, which take Mitchell's pop classics and turn them into solid jazz numbers. His version of "Both Sides Now" shows only harmonic ties to the familiar song but is a great display of the instrumental musicians. The album also features "Edith and the Kingpin," "The Jungle Line" and, of course, "River." Just to add a different touch, the band also does a great version of Shorter's "Nefertiti." The album features Shorter, bassist Dave Holland, on-his-way guitarist Lionel Loueke and Vinnie Colaiuta, the drummer who grew up in Fayette County. …