LOS ANGELES: Herbie Hancock shocked Kanye West, best-album presenters Usher and Quincy Jones, and just about anyone who was watching the Grammys when the jazz veteran won the night's big prize for "River: The Joni Letters."
But perhaps no one was more shocked than Herbie Hancock.
"It's immeasurable how surprised I am," Hancock said Sunday night after the show.
"I didn't even hear my name at first," he continued. "Then I heard the word 'River' and I said, 'Is this true? Is this happening?'"
It was the 11th Grammy for the 67-year-old, who doesn't expect any flak from his chief competitor.
"Kanye and I are cool," Hancock said.
The album, a collection of Joni Mitchell's music, features various singers. At least two of them were at Staples Center for Sunday's Grammy ceremony: Corinne Bailey Rae and Tina Turner. Norah Jones and Leonard Cohen also appear on the album.
Hancock and Mitchell, longtime friends and musical collaborators, have appeared on each other's records since 1979.
"Joni is a great friend of mine," Hancock said backstage. "I've cherished my friendship with her since we first met ... She responds to jazz like a fish in water."
But his win was a surprise for most industry watchers, who saw the best-album category as a duel between West and Winehouse.
West came into the contest with a leading eight nominations. He won four. Winehouse had six nods and won five awards. Hancock was up for three Grammys and won two, including contemporary jazz album.
Recording academy president Neil Portnow was asked backstage whether Hancock's win was appropriate given the runaway commercial success of West's "Graduation" and Winehouse's "Back to Black."
"I don't think sales has anything to do with what the academy decides in awarding albums or records. It's about excellence in music," he said. "I think it was a very respectable choice."
Vince Gill, a 19-time winner and fellow nominee for album of the year, said Hancock deserved the award.
"I think Herbie Hancock, hands down," he said, "is a better musician than all of us here put together."
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