Herbie Hancock Working on New Album, Eyeing Collabs with Pharrell Williams and Others

Herbie Hancock
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Herbie Hancock performs at Arena Santa Giuliana during Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy.

Herbie Hancock plans to go on "lockdown" after he receiving a National Arts Award from the Americans for the Arts on Monday (Oct. 19) -- at least until he finishes his next album.

The renowned keyboardist is planning a follow-up to 2010's The Imagine Project, though what direction it will take is currently up in the air. "I don't have what one might normally define as a clear-cut architecture of the record," Hancock tells Billboard. "There's several ideas that are passing through my sights. But I've been trying to do a new album for four years, and there's been little bits and nibbles but no time to do a record. It's been going on way too long so I finally said, "OK, enough of this' and I'm not gonna do anything else but (the album) for awhile."

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Hancock has been speaking with Pharrell Williams about doing something together. He's also started working with Flying Lotus and his regular bassist Thundercat, who Hancock finds to be a kindred spirit in musical adventure with plenty of common ground to explore between them. "There's a scene that's happening, kind of an underground movement that's given partially to a connection to jazz or a new form of jazz," Hancock explains. "It's very difficult to definite because what's involved is very often hip-hop and rap and electronics and jazz elements, classical elements. it's pretty broad-based, very open. It touches on the experimental while at the same time touches on the street. So I'm very intrigued. I feel I have something that I might be able to kind of bring along and add a little bit to the sauce with a lot of these young voices, so let's see what we come up with."

That's not the only potential collaboration on Hancock's plate. Carlos Santana has also identified Hancock as part of Supernova, an all-star project he's planning that will also include saxophonist Wayne Shorter and Santana's wife Cindy Blackman Santana on drums. "Carlos and Wayne and I have been talking about doing something for years, and we have done some one-off things," Hancock says. "Those have been appetizers, I would say, from something we would like to embark on at some point. In what form, how it's to take place, when it's to take place -- it's still in the idea stage. But (Santana) wants it to happen. I want to make it happen, too. So does Wayne. We just haven't gotten that far to where we can say anything concrete yet."

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Meanwhile, Hancock says he's be honored to receive the 2015 Outstanding Contributions to the Arts Award from Americans for the Arts during a ceremony in New York, part of National Arts and Humanities Month. He joined Lady Gaga (Young Artist Award), Sophia Loren (Carolyn Clark Powers Lifetime Achievement Award), Alice Walton (Arts Education Award), Joan and Irwin Jacobs (Philanthropy in the Arts Award) and Maria Bell (Legacy Award), who were feted with performances by The Voice finalist India Carey and YoungArts, among others.

"It's a very impressive organization. They do things to help insure there are avenues for people in various communities to be able to have access to the arts, which is so important," Hancock says. "So I feel very encouraged getting an award from an organization that's been around for years and years doing work like that. Another reason it's special; fellow recipient Loren's late husband Carlo Ponti produced the 1965 film Blow Up, which was Hancock's first film scoring job.