Displaying the sensitive touch and harmonic ear he is known for, Hancock deconstructs his selections and pensively turns them inside out, searching for their emotional core. Moving far beyond jazz and the lounge-piano cliches that come so easily on the standards chosen, Hancock turns "My Funny Valentine" into a study in Romantic-era harmony, sounding more like French composers Erik Satie or Maurice Ravel than Miles Davis or Bill Evans. Part of this is due to the extended chords Hancock chooses, painting sheets of suspended notes over chords and decorating his melody with sotto voce runs and fills.
Hancock give each selection a similar treatment, turning each one into a perfect little jewelbox of gorgeous and brilliant playing. Like a Japanese painting done on the thinnest of papers with the fewest possible strokes of a brush, The Piano is an expressively minimalist exercise in taste and restraint. Moreover, that it comes from the same man who was in the same period wrangling a synthesizer in the Headhunters and sparring with VSOP is positively stunning and a little unbelievable.
Herbie Hancock's recorded output is both extensive and spotty, and it can be difficult for someone just getting acquainted with his work to know quite where to begin. Both The Piano and its Columbia/Legacy partner release VSOP: Live Under The Sky deserve a place on every jazz fan's shelf as major contributions not only to the work of one the greatest living keyboardists but to the state of the art of jazz.
This post also appears at the Ministry of Minor Perfidy. The Ministry of Minor Perfidy: providing you with the tools you need to survive the coming invasion of the space robots.