Herbie Hancock released his debut album, “Takin’ Off,” on Blue Note Records in 1962 when he was 22, but in fact he’d been taking off since the age of 11, when he played the Mozart D major piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He’s since broken new musical ground as a member of the ’60s Miles Davis Quintet and as a composer and pianist who easily crosses boundaries from jazz to funk to pop and movie scores, collecting a passel of honors along the way, including an Academy Award for his score to the 1986 film “ ’Round Midnight” and the 2007 album of the year Grammy for “River: The Joni Letters.” In 2011 he was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and last December he was a recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor. He is also Institute Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
Next week, as Harvard’s Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, he begins a lecture series titled “The Ethics of Jazz.” (The lectures are free and open to the public, but tickets are required.) I recently spoke with Hancock over the phone about the lectures.