Gershwin's World is a tour de force for Herbie Hancock, transcending genre and label, and ranking among the finest recordings of his lengthy career.
Released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin's birth, this disc features jazzman Hancock with a classy collection of special guests. The most surprising of Hancock's guest stars is Joni Mitchell, who delivers a gorgeously sensual vocal on "The Man I Love," then provides an airy, worldly take on "Summertime." On these two tracks, she shows she has come a long way from her folksinger beginnings to become a first-class jazz singer in her own right.
Stevie Wonder's unmistakable harmonica complements Mitchell's singing on "Summertime" and shares lead instrument space with his own voice on the W.C. Handy classic "St. Louis Blues." Jazzman extraordinaire Wayne Shorter smokes a solo spot on Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail" and carves out some space for his soprano saxophone in the midst of "Summertime." A number of the young lions of jazz are featured on various cuts, and Herbie's old pal Chick Corea joins the leader for a piano duet of James P. Johnson's "Blueberry Rhyme." Gershwin's wonderful, extended "Lullaby" finds Hancock teamed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, as does an attractive arrangement of a "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" by Maurice Ravel, whose jazz influence can be heard on the piece. In addition, one of the most beautiful tracks on the album places star soprano Kathleen Battle's voice at the forefront of Gershwin's own "Prelude in C# Minor." Yet with all the fine performances by his guests, Gershwin's World remains Hancock's show, and he plays magnificently throughout.
From beautiful to funky, percussive to melodic, improvisational to tightly arranged, Hancock and cohorts take a wondrous journey through the music and world of Gershwin.
Jim Newsom ~ AllMusicGuide
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