Hancock took collaboration to the nth degree on this, his latest album. No less than 18 fellow musicians assist Hancock in his goal of sharing themes of global peace and universal responsibility on these songs, which blend world music with Hancocks own distinctive electronic sounds. Highlights include an Imagine suite on which Hancock works with Seal, Jeff Beck and India Arie; The Times, They Are A-Changin with Irish talents The Chieftains; and a left-field assist from Dave Matthews on Hancocks version of Tomorrow Never Knows.
Esperanza Spalding - Esperanza - Heads Up
An older album that is just now starting to gain momentum (due to Spaldings performance at last years Nobel Peace Prize concert at the request of President Obama), Esperanzas eponymous set is a great introduction to the jazz bassist/singer. Melding old-school jazz with modern sensibilities, her impressive voice and innate sense of arrangement are showcased on tracks like the folky Ponte de Areia and the samba-scat I Adore You. Spalding has a second album on the way this August, and you can bet jazz fans will be lined up for it.
Stanley Clarke Band - The Stanley Clarke Band - Heads Up
Clarke, much like Hancock, also collaborates on his current release, on which he works more in a band format than as a solo artist. He brings along his usual drummer, Ronald Bruner Jr., and his longtime keyboardist Ruslan Sirota, and adds in musical seasoning in the forms of saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drum programmer Chris Clarke, and The Manhattan Transfers Cheryl Bentyne, among others. Bass Folk Song No. 10 has a chill feel, Labyrinth is appropriately complex, and Soldier adds a percussive, marching feel to the bass lines.
Lee Ritenour - 6 String Theory - Concord Records
Ritenour celebrates the guitar itself on his latest album, bringing in almost as many musical pals as Herbie and Stanley do. Its a fete for several different genres of guitar music, actually, from rock and blues to jazz and classical, and those aforementioned pals help decipher it all. The vocal/musical talents of B.B. King and Jonny Lang (Why I Sing the Blues), Keb Mo and Taj Mahal (Am I Wrong), and George Benson (My One and Only Love) are among the most standout tracks on the set, although theyre all worthy of the guitars they champion.