John Beasley

Letter to Herbie

by Brendon Griffin

29 July 2008


It’s one of the quirks of an aging music business that even as Herbie Hancock basks in acclaim for his Joni Mitchell tribute, someone is releasing a tribute to him in turn. And as a veteran who’s worked with Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard, as well as the likes of James Brown and Steely Dan, pianist John Beasley is a natural for the lesser heard back pages of a man forever at the interface of jazz and popular music. Herbie’s mod-jazz soundtrack to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up is more often remembered for “Bring Down the Birds”, but Beasley brings down an entirely unexpected, subterranean-deep cover of “The Naked Camera” instead (with a fade-out reverie echoing Miles’ Dingo OST). While he likewise goes electric for a brief, dub-centric take on Headhunters booty, “Vein Melter”, this is in large part an acoustic salute. Flying with the likes of Roy Hargrove and a club class rhythm section (Christian McBride and Jeff Watts), he simply lets Herbie’s spirit wash over him, channelling that chordal aggregate and lyrical fizz into elegantly conceived quasi-covers, redefinitions and Hancock-ian originals.

Letter to Herbie


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