Herbie Hancock, "The Imagine Project"

83 Billboard Rating

Whether Herbie Hancock's newest release, "The Imagine Project," wins the album of the year Grammy Award in 2011 (he received the honor in 2008 for "River: The Joni Letters"), it's certainly eligible for some sort of frequent-flier miles prize. Traveling to multiple countries, Hancock and co-producer Larry Klein assembled an international array of talent to make an obvious but not overbearing statement about unity and world peace. Pink, Seal, India.Arie and Jeff Beck help turn John Lennon's "Imagine" into a rich, Caribbean-flavored chorale, while Los Lobos and Canadian rapper K'Naan join Malian Tuareg troupe Tinariwen on a trancey coupling of the latter's "Tamatant Tilay" with Bob Marley's "Exodus." And Derek Trucks trades licks with Hancock, while Susan Tedeschi sings a gritty, gospelized take on Joe Cocker's "Space Captain." Other key contributions come from Dave Matthews (the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows") and James Morrison (Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come"). Amid all this, Hancock holds his own as a visionary and pianist, playing just enough to be present but also serving as a gracious host to his distinguished guests. --Gary Graff

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