'Hancock: Possibilities' falls a little flat

Critics' Picks : New Dvds

April 16, 2006

HERBIE HANCOCK: POSSIBILITIES / / Magnolia Home Entertainment / / $26.98

Throughout his career, spanning more than 40 years, Herbie Hancock has always resisted being pegged as one type of artist. At his core, he's a jazz man, composer of such standards as 1962's "Watermelon Man" and 1965's "Maiden Voyage." But like his former boss, Miles Davis, the Chi-Town native is a restless musical spirit whose scope includes bold, shifting elements of various genres. Classical, pop, bop, hip-hop, funk, R&B, the blues, folk, samba -- all have been explored and dismantled at different times in Hancock's music. Often on his many albums over the years, the keyboardist has presaged style trends.

His latest CD, Possibilities, isn't groundbreaking. A spotty, collaborative pop affair, it features about a dozen artists, namely John Mayer, Christina Aguilera, Paul Simon, Sting and others. The DVD of the same name, which lands in stores Tuesday, chronicles the making of the album in different studios around the country and overseas.

There's Aguilera, with '20s flapper-style hair and makeup, rehearsing Leon Russell's oft-recorded chestnut, "A Song For You." She sings it well at rehearsal, but she seems to be more concerned with the precision of her vocal runs than connecting with the emotion of the lyric or Hancock's moody, sympathetic arrangement. Oddly enough, the cut ends up one of the highlights on Possibilities.

Raul Midon, the gifted singer-songwriter-guitarist, is seen warming up in the studio, ad-libbing mellifluously and doing a dead-on imitation of a trumpet. Great stuff. Too bad Hancock wasted his skills on the maudlin, dragged-out version of Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You," one of the Motown legend's sappiest tunes. Although it's brief, it's interesting to see Simon work in the studio with percussionists to flesh out the tender remake of his 1975 gem, "I Do It For Your Love." Between the snippets of studio performances, Hancock gives mostly complimentary commentary about working with each artist.

Special features: Two full performances: an ethereal one of Hancock and saxophone legend Wayne Shorter onstage in Japan, and a relaxing instrumental one with a full band (including Phish co-founder, guitarist Trey Anastasio) in a rustic studio.

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[RASHOD OLLISON]

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

ALSO ANTICIPATED

REMINGTON STEELE: SEASON THREE / / Fox Home Video / / $39.95

Unfairly remembered as little more than a precursor of Moonlighting, this stylishly comedic detective series also gave Pierce Brosnan a showcase from which he was able to become the next James Bond. Stephanie Zimbalist, beautiful, game and never one to be crossed, stars as sleuth Laura Holt, who invented "Remington Steele" as a front because, as she explained in the series opener, nobody wanted to hire a female private eye; Brosnan is the mysterious, nameless stranger who, unbidden, assumes the identity.

Brosnan and Zimbalist display great chemistry as the reluctant partners who find themselves more and more attracted to one another, and the always-reliable Doris Roberts is a stitch as their office manager, Mildred. Movie lovers will have an especially good time, as one of the series' conceits is that the Remington Steele Detective Agency's cases always follow the plots (or at least the key plot points) of notable movies.

Season Three has everyone fitting comfortably into their roles, and includes two of the series' best episodes: "Steele in the Chips" (co-written by Zimbalist), in which the agency is called upon to protect a recipe for a no-cal chocolate chip cookie; and "Steele in the Family," with Nancy Everhard as a high-priced call girl who befriends Mildred's nebbishy nephew, who's having troubles of his own, what with having to hide a dead body and all.

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[CHRIS KALTENBACH]

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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