Saturday, September 06, 2014

Herbie Hancock - The Warner Bros. Years 1969-1972 (Warner Brothers, 2014)

Between his tenure at Blue Note Records in the early to mid 1960's and his lengthy term with Columbia Records, keyboardist and composer Herbie Hancock made a handful of transitional recordings for the Warner Brothers label. These albums: Fat Albert Rotunda, Mwandishi and Crossings showed his burgeoning interest in electronic keyboards. Fat Albert Rotunda, written as a soundtrack to Bill Cosby's wonderful cartoon (Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert!) is still entrenched in Hancock's jazz sensibility although the colors and shading he was able to achieve with the electronic piano works to his advantage. This is wonderful and exciting stuff with the R and B tinges to "Wiggle Waggle" and "Fat Mama" always producing a grin. Mwandishi turns much more serious and exploratory in nature and IMHO one of his finest LP's. Consisting of just three tunes (with a couple of singles tacked on for this collection) Hancock and his crack band move through beautifully constructed compositions with plenty of room for improvisation, climaxing with the epic LP side-long "Wandering Spirit Song" where Hancock takes the lessons he has learned from Miles Davis' fusion experiments and moves deeply into the musical cosmos. Finally, Crossings adds further experimentation with overdubbed synthesizer (the liner notes state that Hancock went to see a synth demonstration and was so bowled over that he hired the machine and the operator for added musical shading.) Again there were three long tracks on the original album anchored by the leaders massive epic "Sleeping Giant" which moves from haunting and mysterious to white hot (when the Giant wakes up.) Saxophonist and bass clarinetist Bennie Maupin contributes the remaining songs, including "Water Torture" which shows just how effective the electronics can be if applied properly. This is an excellent compilation of a unjustly ignored portion of Hancock's career. He would follow this with his massive it LP Headhunters for Columbia which may have overshadowed this short period, but he music is excellent and ripe for re-discovery. The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972) -

Send comments to Tim.