Herbie Hancock ended a long and exhausting day of ambassadorial duties with a refreshing return to music. Eight hours of conversation fatigue faded away with mention of Tina Turner's stellar reading of Joni Mitchell's "Edith and The Kingpin" from the pianist's 2008 Mitchell tribute River.
"Oh man, she nailed it, didn't she?" he says, shedding his Buddhist's calm.
It's an exciting respite from answering broad questions about the nature and history of jazz. Hancock has spent weeks giving interviews and planning for the inaugural International Jazz Day (Monday, April 30). The project is his first since becoming an ambassador with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last July. From hereafter, April 30 (or dates close depending on international holidays) will celebrate the music globally.
Hancock's album was a strong one. Most of the time, tribute albums aren't. Emine Saner wrote about Joni last month for the Guardian:
Carey isn't Joni Mitchell's best song. It isn't even the best on Blue, the album on which it appears (A Case of You is, obviously. Or is it
California?). But it is the one song I know for sure has stamped itself on my mind in a way that goes beyond merely liking the melody or a clever lyric.
I rarely choose to play it; it chooses to swim up from my subconscious and play itself to me. And I've learned to think of it as a child tugging on my skirts, trying to alert my attention to something that isn't quite right. The first time I heard it, in my early 20s, I was in a relationship I wasn't sure I wanted to be in and Carey, with its jaunty, joyful tune and Mitchell's airborne vocals, made me think hot, dusty sunshine and wine and new friends and "scratchy rock'n'roll" sounded like a much better option.
Actually "River" is the finest song on Blue. Or is it the title track? Or "Little Green"? Or . . .
It's silly to pretend one song on the album is the best. If you've lived with Blue for more than even on eyear, you know every one of those tracks is the best song on the album.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"