Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Herbie Hancock – V.S.O.P. (Columbia, 1976)

This was recorded at the 1976 Newport Jazz Festival and presented as a retrospective of the music of Herbie Hancock. It's mostly well known as the first reunion of the classic Miles Davis band of the mid 1960's (sans Miles, of course) but there's also a side of the great Mwandishi band, back together for the concert and the final side is of Hancock's then current free-funk ensemble. For showing the many sides of Herbie Hancock, this is a very interesting record.

The acoustic set, with Freddie Hubbard filling in the trumpet slot is made up of a couple of Hancock compositions, “Eye of the Hurricane” and “Maiden Voyage” plus the classic Wayne Shorter composition “Nefertiti” which was recorded by the Davis band on the album of the same name. Hubbard lacks the subtlety of Miles Davis, but the band still sounds tight ten years on. Hancock’s Mwandishi ensemble comes next, a fascinating group that had just broken up a few years earlier, after making three records where Hancock’s fender Rhodes piano meshed with layers of reeds and percussion. Eddie Henderson plays some beautiful delicate trumpet on the lengthy “Toys” and the whole ensemble shines on “You’ll Know When You Get There.”

The concert wraps up with the funk band that Hancock was leading at the time of the recording. These is probably the weakest of the tracks on the album, as the groove tends to be pretty static and the improvisations are not nearly as adventurous as the two previous units. Still, overall this is an interesting summation of Herbie Hancock’s musical journey up to 1976. It would be interesting to reprise this concept now, nearly twenty years after V.S.O.P. It would probably take a boxed set to contain all the music, but it would be one fascinating trip.

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