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Published: 2007/12/21
by Dan Alford

Herbie

Quick Picks:
JB- Solo acoustic at Planet Bluegrass in 2000
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Fillmore East 1970- Perfect
Phish, Road to Vegas- The bonus disc is better than any single disc in the set
YMSB, 3/11/07- The final jam is brilliant fun
WSP, 9/20/06- Low Spark > Climb > Low Spark
A quick note that Im now dishing out tunes for Stormy Mondays in the Hidden Tracks section of Glidemagazine.com. Both the Trio and the Headhunters sets described here were featured in early Decembers Stormy Monday, found here.
Herbie Hancock Trio. Hamburg, Germany 7/11/93
This show is what jazz should be- bright, lively, beautiful and jaw dropping. The trio consists of Mr. Hancock, Jeff Littleton on bass and the amazing Gene Jackson working the kit. Together, they sound like Christmas. The opening I Love You, despite the horrendous title, is superb, and sometimes I have to turn off the music when its over, just to digest. Long and gorgeous, and fluid at the beginning, it crashes over a series of breakers and tight twists. There is some fantastic drumming about ten minutes in that sets Herbie off on a fire storm of notes. As the tune winds down, Hancock grooves right into Cantaloupe island, all tweaky and bending the intro (as he is wont to do). When the rhythm section hits, the song just digs down into a stunningly funky and forward moving jam. Wow!
Easing off the pyrotechnics, Herbie goes solo for a beautiful, low and lengthy intro to Maiden Voyage. Its positively quiet before Jackson shines in on cymbals. One Finger Snap is the most mind-bending piece here- a free-wheeling barrage of joyous percussive sounds. Im gasping for breath when the trio drops for a mid-song bass solo, not to mention at Gene Jacksons monster, wild, wilder solo late in the game. The core of the show is a massive, frenetic Just One of Those Things that explodes over twenty minutes. The construction here is stellar, starting off with an aggressive bout of riffing (pretty stunning in its own right), but eventually cooling down to a little jazz dance, with that opening barrage filtering through periodically so you can tell its coming back without it dominating the whole movement. A massive drums solo is tucked into the center of the song, starting with quiet rolls, and building to a boil that calls Hancock and Littleton back in for a long, steep climb o the apex. The great sin of this recording is that the closing Footprints cuts off at four minutes. It certainly hurts, but what precedes that unkindest cut eases the pain.
The Headhunters , 11/6/74
This short set for German radio in 1974 is a perfect dose of Herbie and crew doing what they did best. It opens with a super slick and mellow Butterfly replete with congas and warbly, bell-like effects. Maupins sax is just gorgeous, clean and sharp, like light. The second improv is even deeper as it follows the trench bassist Paul Jackson digs. Herbie is tooling about the keys until Mr. Clark kicks in with a new, showier beat and the race begins. An insanely funky Spank-A-Lee follows, six minutes of pure Headhunters greatness that struts right into Chameleon. The center of the classic is a wide open, jungle groove with fat bass and lightly spinning electric piano. Real jazzy and real cool. *Herbie Hancock & Friends, 6/27/97 *
This short set circulates mostly as filler on various Herbie Hancock and John Scofield shows, but if you can find it, it’s well worth adding to your collection. The band includes a number of Miles Davis alumni, such as Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Scofield and Don Alias. The all star jam moves through a number of Davis tunes, culminating in a super sweet version of the fusion classic Jean-Pierre. To hear Holland’s aggressive, thick bass blend with DeJohnette’s fast, crackling drumming is nothing short of fantastic and that doesn’t even take into account what Herbie and Sco are able to accomplish together. *The Great Quartet (Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland and Brian Blade), Thaetre du Chatelet, Paris 7/3/04 *
This supergroup gig is part of a monumental tour that had stateside stops in early summer before heading off to Europe. What could be better than this quartet in Paris? In order to really appreciate its scope and sequence, the two disc show is best experienced in a single sitting. It’s a graceful, pensive performance that is very different from many other Hancock/Shorter projects. There are a number of nice piano intros, and in fact Herbie and Brian Blade dominate most of the set. It is not until a mid set Aung San Suu Kyi that Shorter comes out with his trademark crazed playing. Instead, he shows great restraint and subtlety until this piece, where everyone lets loose- it’s the centerpiece. There is also a fine, short version of Cantaloupe Island and a beautifully airy Footprints that is all about the negative space- the notes that aren’t played as described by those that are…

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