Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage

   Herbie Hancock is one of most restless spirits, constantly changing bands, styles, even genres. He is constantly alternating, trying different strategies and playing with various lineups. Sometimes he is playing popular dance music, sometimes mainstream and in fact all this comes from ultra modern attitude. And in contrary, his place on the jazz scene as the pianist, arranger and composer is perfectly steady, which is side effect of quite traditional mastery. In fact artist established his position in his twentieth and since these times all possible critics and listeners reactions are just repeating all over the same lists of compliments and doubts. He is the kind of musician who is taking seriously all kinds of music, even those which most listeners see as nothing but dance music. For half of the century he was featured artist on many directions of jazz and popular music.
   Herbie Hancock’s ideas were one of strongest factors during construction of the post-bop style. His intuition and technique were legendary. In effect his compositions with its coloristic use of harmonics and sound sensitive arrangements became famous and many pianists were just copied his style in arranging and improvising. As always the quintessence of great artist’s personal style is unmistakable, although during passing years he has more and more followers. What could be the trademark of this artist is his modernity and restraint. He was never too much radical, always remembering there is also a mainstream jazz with choruses and harmonic changes. This attitude has its root in early recordings of Herbie Hancock as a leader. One of them is fifth Hancock’s album Maiden Voyage. It has been released by Blue Note (BST 84195) in 1965 and became an instant classic.

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage (1984)

   There are many reasons for the Maiden Voyage should be considered as an album of rare quality both in Herbie Hancock’s discography and in best achievements of the whole genre. First of all, this is concept album what makes it a quite unique phenomenon. Although it can be considered as clear instrumental jazz, five compositions are thematically homogeneous, telling about the sea voyage, playful dolphins, struggle for survival and trying to catch impression of the sea in its continuing change. Composition of this album is connected to the idea of historic illustrative, programmatic music and probably closest references for Hancock’s music are Debussy’s piano pieces with impressionistic harmonics. Author of all compositions was Herbie Hancock. On first side including Maiden Voyage, The Eye of the Hurricane and Little One, improvisational fervor is still in the frames of hard bop style. Hancock mitigates Hubbard’s expression and Coleman is usually closer to mainstream than others. In The Eye of the Hurricane he played beautiful Coltranean solo.
   Freddie Hubbard played with bravely expressive sound and harmonic freedom. His trumpet sounds closer to free jazz than George Coleman’s tenor saxophone. While Hubbard is explicitly avant-garde, Coleman is playing post-cool soft phrases with mild sound. Tony Williams is doing best drumming ever. His work should be listening as teaching project for jazz and orchestral drummer. And with Ron Carter he created best section ever. Most progressive piece of the album is opening second side Survival of the Fittest – the rare example of breaking barriers. In Dolphin Dance Hancock is back to his jazz style with distance and graciousness. His solo is just like new definition of jazz. There can be no doubts, this record deserves full set of stars. It could be listen again and again.

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