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.

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