On his lovely and loving tribute to singer- songwriter extraordinaire Joni Mitchell, the iconic jazz pianist Herbie Hancock aims to enter Mitchell's richly suggestive world rather than remake her via his own preoccupations -- anyone expecting this to be a blunt "Herbie Jazzes Joni" project will no doubt be disappointed. An introspective yet thoroughly compelling quality that also extends to the choice instrumental performances pervades the album, a seductive quality akin to Mitchell's own best work. In keeping with Hancock's open embrace, "River" has its share of A-list collaborators. Guest vocalists including Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Corinne Bailey Rae, Leonard Cohen, and, on "Tea Leaf Prophecy," the muse herself, bring new life to such Mitchell anthems as "River," "Court and Spark" and "Amelia." But attentive ears will also hear some gorgeous playing from Wayne Shorter, the brilliant saxophonist who has collaborated with Hancock since their mid Sixties stint with Miles Davis. In a nod to Joni's shared admiration for the saxophone stylist, Hancock even redirects the spotlight for a nimble reworking of Shorter's own "Nefertiti." This curious blend of source materials -- which also finds room for Duke Ellington 's "Solitude" - somehow coheres beautifully. As Mitchell throws her arms around the world in her own music, so Hancock honors her vision with this inclusive masterpiece.
Performance CreditsHerbie Hancock Primary Artist,Piano
Dave Holland Bass,Bass Guitar
Wayne Shorter Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Soprano (Vocal)
Vinnie Colaiuta Drums
Lionel Loueke Guitar
Technical CreditsJoni Mitchell Composer
Herbie Hancock Producer,Audio Production,Management
Wayne Shorter Composer
Irving Mills Composer
Eddie DeLange Composer
Duke Ellington Composer
Larry Klein Composer,Producer,Audio Production
Hollis King Art Direction
Helix Hadar Engineer,Vocal Engineer
Melinda Murphy Management
Dahlia Ambach Caplin Executive Producer
Steve Chrisanthou Vocal Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
River: The Joni Letters based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
This excellent cd is truly deserving of the recognition received "Grammy for best album!". If you're a Joni fan and you want everything to sound exactly like Joni then you may not like it as much, but if you're a jazz fan and appreciate re-interpretation then you should enjoy this sensitive tribute by the great composer and modern master of jazz keyboard - Herbie Hancock!
I'm a huge fan of both Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell but somehow it almost appears as if the two have never crossed paths. Not many artists can do justice to Joni Mitchell's living legacy of music, however Herbie Hancock gave this project the old college try. But to be honest "River: The Joni Letters" doesn't quite feel right. Tina tuner's vocals are too sour for the song "Edith And The Kingpin" and it doesn't lift the spirit of the song up. Where as if you listened to the original version, you'll find that it's breeming with a certain sweetness. "The jungle Line" becomes a William Shatneresque spoken word ensemble, which to me detracts from the classic, again the original version was broody and primal. On a redeeming note though, Corinne Baily Rae's sweet and always delightful voice adds a ghostly, Joni Mitchell like quality to the classic title track "River". Norah Jones also makes an appearance and she is a nice surprise. "The Joni Letters" is too much of a mixed bag, with only a couple of odd players that never quite retains the albums' cohesiveness and it suffers because of that. All praises due to Hancock for the attempt though. I look foward to new work from Herbie Hancock the solo artist.
I have been listening to HH since we dated the same girl in high school. I didn't like him then and today is no different.