Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Best of Herbie Hancock (Blue Note, 1990)

Pianist and composer Herbie Hancock came to Blue Note Records under the tutelage of Donald Byrd, but was quickly snatched up by fellow trumpeter Miles Davis to anchor his second great quintet. But Hancock stayed with Blue Note from 1962-1970 as a solo artist cutting some classic albums as he moved from strictly acoustic jazz toward the jazz-funk he became popular for. This disc is a nice introduction to his Blue Note period (all of the individual albums are still in print, and there are used copies of the complete Blue Note recordings floating around.) Some of Hancock’s most well known compositions are well represented, from “Watermelon Man” the popular song that anchored his first album, Takin’ Off, and my favorite performance “Cantaloupe Island” from the Empyrean Isles LP with an extraordinary piano vamp and rock solid playing from Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Conventional wisdom states that Maiden Voyage is Hancock’s best LP (although I prefer Empyrean Isles, IMHO) but the title track is included here from that equally classic album is included here and is an excellent example of the inherent mystery that pervades that album. “Riot” was a staple of the Miles Davis band of the period and the atmospheric “Speak Like a Child” is also a well-known original composition. Herbie Hancock went on to have a very successful and wildy varied career that continues today. This is a solid sampler of his early years as a bandleader, and makes for a most pleasant and enjoyable listen. Best of Herbie hancock -

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