Herbie Hancock: Crossing over to an electronic future
30th June 2017
Label: Speakers Corner
Maybe that’s why younger pianists constantly look towards him as an inspiration. Maybe that’s why he’s seen as an epitome of cool. Maybe that’s why he was such a valued employee by Miles Davis. Because Herbie Hancock didn’t really give a damn. OK, maybe he gave a bit more of a damn than Davis but, still, Hancock ploughed onwards, developing his increasing complex style, his musical chops, the type of instruments used within his work, he crossed genres from jazz to R&B and electronica and evolved his keyboard voice and associated signatures.
Hancock left Davis’ band in 1968 and formed a sextet taking the concept of jazz-rock head on but adding the important ingredient of electronic instruments. So, even at this early stage of the development of electronic instrumentation, Hancock was there, eager to learn and experiment. That included a synthesiser-toting Patrick Gleeson (actually Doctor Patrick, if you will) as well as his owns Echoplexed, fuzz-wah-pedaled electric piano and clavinet.
This album forged into the avant-garde, with Gleeson’s Moog as one of the star attractions.
Only three tracks occupy this LP. Sleeping Giant is a 25 minute, extraordinary five-piece, complex yet exploratory sequence that hangs together despite it adventure in ideas. Hancock’s Fender Rhodes electric piano adds a funky edge to the work. Quasar sends us into space, care of that Moog effects and the organic trumpet effects from Eddie Henderson. Water Torture comes from the bass clarinet playing Bernie Maupin – in fact, Maupin pens two of the three tracks on this LP. Maupin continues the adventure with Hancock’s other-worldly Mellotron and fuzz-wah-pedaled Fender Rhodes piano providing shades of musical colour.
Well mastered by the ever reliable German audiophile company, Speakers Corner and, for jazz fans, still impressively brilliant.