Thursday, October 31, 2013

Herbie Hancock – V.S.O.P.

   After 15 years of intensive musical activity Herbie Hancock was as much respected artist so the program of Newport Jazz Festival contained a special evening dedicated to his music, was termed as “Retrospective of The Music of Herbie Hancock”. In the age of 36 he was already a giant of modern jazz. Concert presented by George Wein was in fact not quite a retrospective. It featured three Hancock’s bands. First was a quintet with musicians Hancock played from early days of his career. Later this band continued and was called V.S.O.P. Quintet. Second was introduced as Herbie Hancock Sextet, but in fact it was Mwandishi Band. Third was the most recent project, representing current trend in Hancock’s music. Indeed, in 1976 The Headhunters was most popular of all Hancock’s bands. On liner notes Herbie Hancock wrote himself, he concluded this concert was so much one musician tribute, but enabling bigger group of musicians to play together.
   The whole program of this evening has been recorded by CBS and published as the double album under the title V.S.O.P., but this time it was only title of the album signed by Herbie Hancock. Next Hancock’s album was titled The Quintet and signed by V.S.O.P. ensemble. So can be stated this live album gave its name to the band. Two records covering the concert performance are perfect passage through modern jazz and great documentary of Hancock’s artistic achievements. From hard bop and modal jazz quintet, through early fusion sextet to the funky, intensively rhythmic trance music of Headhunters band.

Herbie Hancock – V. S. O. P. (1976)

   Serious shape of Herbie Hancock’s music, its natural flowing connected and interwining with different traditions takes its sources from modern jazz of the 50’s. This is still significantly connected with the idea of music as most efficient language for emotional and spiritual communication. It could be observed on every moment of this recording. When after Piano Introduction Herbie Hancock is joined by Ron Carter and Tony Williams it’s like initiation into the mystery of musical value system. This way Maiden Voyage continues with series of solos by Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and the leader of the quintet called later V.S.O.P. Next theme Nefertiti is like small jazz interlude before filling the entire second side Eye of the Hurricane.
   The same serious attitude one can find in funk recordings. Opening 4th side Hang Up Your Hang Ups with modal solos of Bennie Maupin on tenor saxophone and Herbie Hancock on electric piano is nothing else than modal jazz amplified with new rhythmic intensity. Power of rhythmic funk continuity based on section Paul Jackson (bg), James Levi (dr), Kenneth Nash (perc.) and two guitarists: Ray Parker jr. and Wah Wah Watson, shows new trance idea of modal jazz. Second record of the album was also the second part of the show. The idea was to show the newer trends in Hancock’s music. But it was the revival of oldest band and the Eye of the Hurricane, what became the start of a real new chapter of Herbie Hancock’s career. After the first fascination with the sound and rhythm of funk, in second half of the decade there was high time for the return of well known forms of jazz expression.

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