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Herbie Hancock

River: The Joni Letters (Verve)

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Herbie Hancock has never shied away from pop rock. River is Hancock's homage to Joni Mitchell, the legendary singer-songwriter who shares his love for smashing genres. But fear not: River isn't some "play the melody, then a solo" tribute; it's an emotional reinvention of Mitchell's music.

Half the tracks boast vocals. The moody opener "Court and Spark" features a hushed Norah Jones and Wayne Shorter's bittersweet soprano sax. This is followed by a deeply soulful "Edith and the Kingpin," voiced by Tina Turner's gutsy elegance and Shorter's husky tenor.

Corinne Bailey Rae and Luciana Souza also make vocal contributions to the disc. But fine as they are, Mitchell herself blows them all away in "The Tea Leaf Prophecy (Lay Down Your Arms)." Hancock, Shorter, and she sound as if they've been playing together forever.

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