Thursday, April 01, 2004

Herbie Hancock Donates Instruments to Smithsonian

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. jazz legend Herbie Hancock
donated several of his instruments to the
Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on
Tuesday and said he hoped they would inspire others.

A keyboard used to create some of his most famous
hits, two synthesizers and a headphone microphone
joined the museum's other musical memorabilia from
jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald
(news) and Lionel Hampton.

"Maybe some little kid will identify with them and
think that one day I can create music on a new
instrument. Maybe I can be somebody," Hancock told
Reuters in an interview after a ceremony at the
museum.

"But, the truth is that everyone is somebody already.
You don't need the fame to be vital. You would not
exist if you did not have something to bring to the
table of life."

The keyboard, a Fairlight CMI Series II that cost
Hancock $25,000, was the computer-based instrument he
used to compose his 1983 hit "Rockit," a song famous
for its use of a scratching technique.

Hancock said he managed to convince the Australian
supplier of the Fairlight to show him the instrument
before giving a demonstration to another music icon,
Stevie Wonder (news).

A winner of eight Grammy awards in the past two
decades and an Academy Award in 1987 for the film
score "Round Midnight," he is best known for fusing
jazz techniques with electronic instrumentation.

"Hancock's instruments not only represent the career
of one of our country's most prominent musical
figures, they help us to better understand the story
of electric and electronic musical instruments," said
American History museum curator John Hasse.

Born in 1940, Hancock was a child prodigy pianist and
performed at age 11 with the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra.

Brought up in a poor neighborhood on the south side of
Chicago, Hancock's mother recognized his talent early
on and bought him a piano for his seventh birthday.

It was the "magnetism of improvisation" that first
attracted Hancock away from his classical roots to
jazz, which he said while growing out of slavery was
more about the human experience than anything else.

Hancock said he had already sold many of his
instruments to a company but was holding onto many of
his more valuable items so they could go into his
estate when he died.

"I am still a jazz musician and not a pop star in
terms of money and so I have to take care of my family
first, then my extended family and my country."

Hancock is working on a new record called "HH Project
2004" which involved a collection of artists. He
declined, for legal reasons, to give any further
details.

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