Herbert Jeffrey Hancock, 12 April 1940, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Growing up in a musical household, Hancock studied piano from the age of seven and gave his first public performance just two years later. Although he played classical music at his debut Hancocks interest lay mostly in jazz. During high school and college he played in semi-professional bands and on occasion accompanied visiting jazzmen, including Donald Byrd. It was with Byrd that Hancock first played in New York, in 1961, recording with him and as leader of his own small group. Among the tunes on Hancocks debut for the Blue Note Records label was Watermelon Man, an original composition that appealed to more than the usual jazz audience. A version of the song, by Mongo Santamaría, reached the US Top 10 in 1963.
During the early and mid-60s Hancock led bands for club engagements and record sessions, completing the influential albums Empyrean Isles...
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