July 02, 2010

Herbie Hancock on his Buddhist practice

In a profile at The Sydney Morning Herald Herbie Hancock talks about his introduction to Buddhism, how his practice has informed his sense of purpose, and his latest undertaking The Imagine Project.

From the article:

He's a dapper man who generally looks 20 years younger than he is, but there's a weariness in his eyes and voice after hours banging the drum about a project he describes as his most difficult.

“I guess . . . it's a combination of my age and the practice of Buddhism. What I've learned is, in order for something to have value it has to in some way work towards serving humanity, otherwise it's self-serving and shallow and disruptive.”

Hancock came to Buddhism nearly 38 years ago, via his old bass player, Buster Williams. Significantly, it was Williams's brilliant playing, inspiring an amazing show “with a kind of spiritual overtone” that had patrons “in tears”, that spoke loudest to Hancock about his colleague's faith.

After that performance Hancock pulled Williams into the musicians’ room and asked about him about his “new philosophy” that made him play bass like that. Hancock listened to his friend’s explanation of Buddhism only because its lessons were made manifest “through the music.”

Isn’t that beautiful? It makes me think about the differences between intellectually understanding Buddhist truths and experiencing them. This is the first time I’ve heard of someone experiencing Buddhism first through the listening of jazz music. It also makes me wonder about what effect, if any, Hancock's practice of Nichiren Buddhism has had on this ability to improvise in his music. It's always seemed to me like a heightened ability to experience the present moment would be especially powerful for jazz musicians, who need to be able to creatively and spontaneously respond to the people playing around them.

Read the full article here.

Image: kfai.org

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[...] Tricycle » Herbie Hancock on his Buddhist practice tricycle.com/blog/?p=2008 – view page – cached In a profile at The Sydney Morning Herald Herbie Hancock talks about his introduction to Buddhism, how his practice has informed his sense of purpose, and his latest undertaking The Imagine Project. Tweets about this link [...]

chissy n's picture

I really like this article--it really sheds light on where he gets his inspiration. I'm really enjoying the Imagine Project. Anybody else give it a listen??
http://bit.ly/bbGysn

Mark Rogow's picture

I maintain that both genius and averageness or even inability has very little to do with Buddhism and Buddhist Enlightenment. Edward Teller too was a genius and Judaism gave him a measure of meaning. Was he Enlightened? This article might cause one to confuse Mr. Hancock's genius with a correct practice or Buddhist wisdom. I would be remiss if I didn't point this out.

Christopher Murray's picture

All due respect, Mark, but how or what Mr. Hancock practices hardly makes him any less the genius that he truly is. Also, it does not really matter to me how closely or loosely one follows any form of Buddhism; if it inspires them and makes their life happier and more meaningful (and in turn, those around them), then who cares?

Mark Rogow's picture

All the Grammies in the world doesn't change Hancok's tireless promotion of SGI "Buddhism" that has altered the Three Treasures and Three Great Secret Laws of the the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren. So much for genius.