Hancock Surrounded By Stars On New Album

Herbie Hancock is surrounded by stars on his as-yet-untitled next album, due Sept. 13 via Vector. Among the artists already on tap with the jazz legend are Sting, Annie Lennox, Carlos Santana and Trey

How does Starbucks, which partnered with Concord on Ray Charles' Grammy Award-sweeping "Genius Loves Company," follow up that phenomenally successful album? By taking another legendary artist and pairing him with a stellar array of acts for what promises to be another strong duets album.

Billboard has learned that the artist is Herbie Hancock and that among the performers already on tape with the keyboardist are Sting, Annie Lennox, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, Damien Rice and, as previously reported, Trey Anastasio.

The album will arrive Sept. 13 on Nashville-based Vector Records. "Starbucks is our partner in the record, it is Starbucks' next big push," Vector principal Ken Levitan confirms. Like "Genius," the CD will be available at traditional retail and in Starbucks outlets.

For Hancock, working with the various artists has been very rewarding. "The kind of energy and magic that they are bringing to the project is fantastic," he says. "So often artists are put into a pigeonhole and expected to stay there, and I never liked that. Coming from jazz, we like to try new things ... and I know there's a lot more to artists than that which they're kind of forced to do, in a sense."

Some artists brought finished songs to the project, while some wrote tunes specifically for the record. In Mayer's case, he brought in a few notes that they crafted into a song in the studio.

"The tune is like 15 minutes long, but the actual song is only four or five minutes long," Mayer says. "The rest is Herbie going around and around on my chord progression, and every time he tags home, he puts on 50 more pounds of weight and starts lifting that. It's incredible."

Hancock is in the midst of a tour with Directions In Music, featuring saxophonist Michael Brecker and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. The trek hits Washington, D.C., tonight (Feb. 18).