River: The Joni Letters

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River: The Joni Letters
Herbie hancock River the joni letters front cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 25, 2007 (2007-09-25)
Recorded2006–2007
GenreJazz
Length67:49
LabelVerve
ProducerHerbie Hancock, Larry Klein
Herbie Hancock chronology
Possibilities
(2005)
River: The Joni Letters
(2007)
The Imagine Project
(2010)

River: The Joni Letters is the forty-fifth studio album by American jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, released on September 25, 2007 by Verve. It is a tribute album featuring cover songs of music written by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

The album peaked at number five on the US Billboard 200, enjoying a huge post-Grammy winning sales boost. Upon its release, River: The Joni Letters received generally positive reviews from critics and earned several accolades, including Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards. Since River received the Album of the Year award, the highest honor at the Grammys, no other act of Afro-American or black ethnicity has won it.[1]

Background[edit]

Hancock is a longtime friend of Mitchell's, and both he and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who plays throughout the album, had previously collaborated with Mitchell on her 1979 album Mingus, and both continued to work with her on occasion ever since.[2]

Guest vocalists on River include Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Luciana Souza and Mitchell herself.[2]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
About.com4.5/5 stars[3]
All About Jazz(favorable)[4]
AllMusic4/5 stars[5]
Robert Christgau(2-star Honorable Mention)(2-star Honorable Mention)[6]
Daily News(favorable)[7]
The Guardian3/5 stars[8]
New York(favorable)[9]
The New York Times(favorable)[10]
The New Yorker(favorable)[11]
Time Out4/6 stars[12]

The album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2008.

Commercial performance[edit]

The album peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 after enjoying a huge post-Grammy sales boost. It also peaked at number 61 in Switzerland, number 70 in France and number 76 in the Netherlands.

Accolades[edit]

On February 10, 2008, the album won the Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz Album at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards.[13] Hancock was competing with Kanye West, Foo Fighters, Amy Winehouse, and Vince Gill for the Album of the Year award.[14] River was the second jazz album to win Album of the Year in the award's history. The first was Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz and João Gilberto in 1965.[15] The track "Both Sides Now" was also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental.[16]

Track listing[edit]

All songs were written by Joni Mitchell, except where noted.

  1. "Court and Spark" (featuring Norah Jones) – 7:35
  2. "Edith and the Kingpin" (featuring Tina Turner) – 6:32
  3. "Both Sides, Now" – 7:38
  4. "River" (featuring Corinne Bailey Rae) – 5:25
  5. "Sweet Bird" – 8:15
  6. "Tea Leaf Prophecy" (featuring Joni Mitchell) (Joni Mitchell, Larry Klein) – 6:34
  7. "Solitude" (Eddie DeLange, Duke Ellington, Irving Mills) – 5:42
  8. "Amelia" (featuring Luciana Souza) – 7:26
  9. "Nefertiti" (Wayne Shorter) – 7:30
  10. "The Jungle Line" (featuring Leonard Cohen) – 5:00

Bonus tracks

The Amazon.com exclusive version of the album includes two bonus tracks:

  1. "A Case of You" – 7:36
  2. "All I Want" (with Sonya Kitchell) – 4:15

The iTunes Store digital version includes two bonus tracks:

  1. "Harlem in Havana"
  2. "I Had a King"

All four bonus tracks were released on the 10th anniversary reissue of the album in 2017.[17]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2007) Peak
position
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[18] 67
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[19] 86
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[20] 76
French Albums (SNEP)[21] 70
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[22] 54
Italian Albums (FIMI)[23] 38
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[24] 57
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[25] 61
US Billboard 200[26] 5
US Top Jazz Albums (Billboard)[27] 1

References[edit]

  1. ^ Grein, Paul (2020-07-14). "John Legend Says 'It's Almost Impossible for a Black Artist to Win Album of the Year' at the Grammys: Is He Right?". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-07-15.
  2. ^ a b "News". HerbieHancock.com. 2007-08-01. Archived from the original on 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
  3. ^ "About.com review". Archived from the original on 2008-09-07. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  4. ^ "All About Jazz review".
  5. ^ Jurek, Thom. "River: The Joni Letters". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Robert Christgau review".
  7. ^ Farber, Jim (30 September 2007). "Herbie Hancock writes 'Letters' to Joni Mitchell - NY Daily News". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  8. ^ Walters, John L. (4 October 2007). "CD: Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  9. ^ Johnson, Martin (24 August 2007). "Herbie Digs Joni". NYMag.com. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  10. ^ Chinen, Nate (9 September 2007). "A Pianist's Love Note to a Noteworthy Voice". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  11. ^ Futterman, Steve (10 September 2007). "Missive to Mitchell". The New Yorker. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Herbie Hancock interview". Time Out London. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  13. ^ Cohen, Sandy (2008-02-11). "Hancock Steals Grammy Album of Year". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  14. ^ Leopold, Todd (2008-02-04). "Herbie Hancock rides on the 'River'". CNN. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  15. ^ Moon, Tom (11 February 2008). "On 'River,' Hancock Skates Away with Grammy". NPR.org. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  16. ^ Jones, Steve (5 February 2008). "Hancock bridged jazz, pop on 'River'". USA Today. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, 10th Anniversary Reissue Review". audiophilereview.com. 2018-01-24. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  18. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  19. ^ "Ultratop.be – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  20. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  21. ^ "Lescharts.com – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  22. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  23. ^ "Italiancharts.com – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  24. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  25. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Herbie Hancock – River - The Joni Letters". Hung Medien. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  26. ^ "Herbie Hancock Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  27. ^ "Herbie Hancock Chart History (Top Jazz Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved August 25, 2020.

External links[edit]