Herbie Hancock Performs For Launch of New Canon Product



Herbie Hancock during his performance of "Chameleon" during Canon's "Legends in Imaging" Event at Sky West Studios at 36th Street and Tenth Avenue. Photo: Alex Contratto

Switching back and forth between an upright electronic keyboard and a Roland AX-7 keytar, jazz legend Herbie Hancock took the stage in Chelsea studio one day last month, performing a mini-set of some of his greatest hits as 60 hand-picked photographers snapped away to create a unique crowd-sourced music video.

The flashbulbs were blinding for guests as the photographers, hired by Canon to test and evaluate new products, used the company’s EOS-5D Mark 2 and 7D cameras to capture images of the 70-year-old musician, who seemed to have as much kick in his step as when his career began.

“There are gonna be a lot of shots taken, so don’t mind if the cameras go off consistently, guys,” Hancock said, in an aside to his band mates before the performance began.

In the audience at Canon’s “Legends in Imaging” event, an appreciative crowd of 300 people snapped their fingers and hollered adulation.  Bartenders bobbed their heads with the beat in between serving drinks throughout Hancock’s 30-minute set.

As Hancock performed his 1973 hit “Chameleon,” a sea of DSLR cameras and telescopic lenses swarmed the stage, as each photographer in Canon’s “Explorers of Light” program tried to upstage colleagues in a competition to capture the best image of the evening.

The beauty of jazz rests in its ability to thrive on improvisation.  Hancock’s performance was no different.  But the melody from “Chameleon” remained familiar to guests at the studio, as Hancock fed the crowd while thriving in the spotlight.

“Exactly as you envisioned it, right?” said Hancock.

It’s not unusual for a company such as Canon to hire a performer of Hancock’s stature to be the subject of a music video to sell product.  Proactiv Skin Care recently used Katy Perry in ads, Kirstie Alley transformed her body using Jenny Craig.  Michael Jordan revolutionized Nike into a worldwide brand after deciding to exclusively wear the “Swoosh” kicks.

For the event, Canon transformed the space at Skylight West Studios, on West 36th Street, into an intimate stage.  Photographs of Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, and other famous performers taken by Vincent Isola, a Canon Explorer of Light, adorned the walls, suggesting the opportunity for fantastic photography that would develop later in the evening.

Meanwhile, the newest Canon printer, the Pixma Pro-1, ornamented another section of the studio, accented by soft, pink lights, signifying a presentation of what Canon called the newest revolution in printing.

Amy Paul Tunick, president of the Alliance Agency, an entertainment and lifestyle marketing firm based in New York, worked collaboratively with Canon to create the event.

“The Canon brand enables innovation, technology, and the arts,” said Tunick.  “Mr. Hancock’s type of performance is historic because we are creating a new kind of music video right here tonight.  This crowd-sourced music video is the first of its kind, representing a true collaboration.”

Tunick said the photos will be “printed on the new Canon Pixma Pro-1 Professional Inkjet Printer, and used in the creation of a music video that incorporates time-lapsed and stop-motion film techniques to synchronize the images to the notes of the song.  It will be released in early December.”

For Hancock, this latest gig was just one more unique performance in a career that took off when he joined Miles Davis’ “second great quintet” in 1963 at the Blue Note in New York City.  The group featured the legendary Davis surrounded by bright, new talents, and served as the foundation for Hancock’s own style.  Since his genesis, Hancock’s career included moving out of the New York jazz scene at the Blue Note to make his own albums Mwandishi, Headhunters, V.S.O.P. and beyond

Hancock is most famous for his singles  “Cantaloupe Island,” “Watermelon Man,” “Maiden Voyage,” “Chameleon” and “Rockit.”  He is a legend among jazz pianists, having won multiple Grammy Awards and an Academy Award in 1986 for the soundtrack to the film Round Midnight.

After concluding his riveting set to an ecstatic crowd, Hancock exclaimed, “Now I want to out try this printer!” turning the focus away from his performance to celebrate the launch of Canon’s new technology.

Listen below for Hancock’s entire performance at the event, including the improved rendition of “Chameleon.”

Herbie Hancock “Legends In Imaging” Performance by amc2236

Herbie Hancock performs during Canon's "Legends In Imaging" event at Sky West Studios on 36th Street and Tenth Avenue. Photo: Alex Contratto