Thursday, March 31, 2011

Herbie Hancock – Quartet

After successes of 1976-1979 four VSOP albums, Herbie Hancock was engaged in different projects and stretching his art in many directions. Looking for most appropriate setting he was playing in many line-ups, solo, in duets, trios and in electro-funk formations. While planning 1981 tour, the group occurred hard to reunite. Wayne Shorter remain focused on his own projects and he was still  hardly engaged with Weather Report. Freddie Hubbard was playing and recording under his own name. In general this was fruitful period for creative work of all VSOP members. Planning concert tour in Japan Herbie Hancock reunited with Ron Carter and Tony Williams, the two musicians he was recording with also in trio and had engaged young, 20 years old trumpet player Winton Marsalis. With this quartet, sometimes called VSOP quartet, Hancock played tour and recorded on July 25th, 1981 in Tokyo CBS Sony Studios the new album. Under title Herbie Hancock Quartet double record set has been released in 1982 as 34th album in Herbie Hancock’s discography.

Herbie Hancock – Quartet

Themes choose for this session reveal musicians’ intention. Most of them are compositions by group members, Hancock, Carter and Williams. Leader’s theme The Eye of the Hurricane, has been previously published on two Herbie Hancock’s milestone album Maiden Voyage from 1965 and VSOP Tempest in the Colosseum album from 1977. Played by quartet without saxophone, in fast tempo and sharp articulation sounds even much extremely technical and expressive. Recorded program in some parts refers directly to legendary Miles Davis Quintet where three musicians of the 1981 Herbie Hancock Quartet had their great part. Two themes were part of Miles Davis 1967 Sorcerer album – The Sorcerer by Hancock and Pee Wee by Williams. Another two themes were hard bop Thelonious Monk standards – Well You Needn’t and Round Midnight, known for uncountable records and live performances.
It’s significant, during one day session Wynton Marsalis has been able to prove he was the rising star of modern jazz. To be absolutely honest, his improvisations in some moments are showing determination of young musician to take advantage of a chance but generally he is musically ad intellectually focused on improvisations, group collaboration and his trumpet sometimes sounds just visionary. From driving hard bop phrases in Well You Needn’t to lyrical and fragile proportioning sound in Round Midnight, his playing is full of nuances, using incredibly diversified sound and progressions perfectly fitting Hancock’s harmonic ideas.
The quartet is playing absolutely phenomenal, every instrumentalist is virtuoso and creates meaningful part of the whole. In Ron Carter’s A Quick Sketch continuity and space gives near trance feeling and perfect timing. There is a whole bunch of magical moments in this album - Williams solo in The Eye of the Hurricane, likewise Marsalis solos in Pee Wee and in I Fall in Love Too Easily are just wonderful. Hancock is playing magnificent blend of hard bop and his own idiomatic and inimitable passages. And as leader he is in high disposition, giving musicians full possibilities to spread their wings.

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