Backbeat: Herbie Hancock Performs, Straps On Keytar @ Canon Party
Backbeat: Herbie Hancock Performs, Straps On Keytar @ Canon Party

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Future Shock Now: Legendary keyboardist, composer and producer Herbie Hancock performed at Canon's launch party in Manhattan where he proved to differentiate between the "S-95 and now the 5D Mark II." (Photo: Canon)

On Wednesday night in a stylish room at Manhattan's Skylight West Studios, Canon USA gathered a VIP crowd of retailers, executives, journalists and photographers for the debut of the latest addition to its popular line of inkjet printers, the PIXMA Pro-1. The evening's special guest, pianist and 14-time Grammy winner Herbie Hancock, proved that more than a few people in attendance are also avid music fans.

"To launch the product, which is designed to provide superlative image reproduction for professional photographers, Herbie Hancock led a quartet through a short set of four songs, including his classics "Watermelon Man" and "Cantaloupe Island". "We couldn't have asked for a better person to help us kick this off," said Michael Duffett, Senior Director CIG Printer Marketing at Canon USA. "Much like the photographers who will use this product, Herbie brings such a level of expertise to the table. We've learned that the passion he puts behind his music is also something he looks for in photography, so it felt like the perfect way to combine the two."

Check out all of our Backbeats -- our exclusive look at the people behind the music business -- right here.

On the red carpet, Hancock, a self-described "techie" who studied engineering at Grinnell College before music detoured his life forever, seemed genuinely excited by the product. He spoke of its clarity, something that was evident from the prints by photographer Vincent Isola that adorned the room. Hancock's appetite for photography was revealed as he joked about the Canons he's owned over the years. "I switched from another company--can I say Nikon?--years ago," he said. "That goes back to the '60s, when I was still in Miles Davis' group. The Canon DSLRs I've had more recently, the S-95 and now the 5D Mark II, might be considered a little beyond my skill level, but I truly believe they've helped me see all kinds of things, flowers and this and that, in a different way."

For quite a few of the photographers in the room, there was an added incentive to catching the evening's rousing rendition of Hancock's '70s funk hit "Chameleon" (see video below). Over a dozen shutterbugs were loaned the aforementioned 5D Mark II, Canon's top-of-the-line DSLR camera, to participate in a "crowd-sourced" photo-shoot of the performance. The images will be edited into a music video to be released in December.

For Hancock's part, he gave the photographers plenty to work with. He was seated behind a grand piano and various electronics for most of the set, but as Blue Note Records' guitarist Lionel Loueke and "Saturday Night Live" bassist James Genus locked into the wah-wah groove of "Chameleon," Hancock stood up and grabbed a strap-on Roland keyboard. He seemed decades younger than his 71 years as he stalked the stage, throwing sly glances and smiles to his sidemen to acknowledge some improvisational flourish. The non-photographers in the room were busy, too…bobbing and swaying to the danceable strains of an icon.

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