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From the Inside Out

Blue Note and Recording Master Re-Present RVGs Heritage

By Published: June 14, 2005

Hancock had by this time been a member of Miles Davis' second great quintet for about five years. From this set, "Riot was originally recorded by Davis for his 1967 album Nefertiti, and Hancock composed "The Sorcerer for the title track of another album Davis released in 1967.

Except for Carter's "First Trip, Speak is composed entirely by Hancock. Through these compositions and his playing (he is the only soloist), Hancock reveals a depth of intelligence and feeling (NOT sentimentality) that makes it easy to understand how someone who previously employed McCoy Tyner as pianist, like Davis, would be attracted to Hancock's work. Its title track is a ballad of soft, mesmerizing beauty; another great Davis pianist, Bill Evans, is a point of reference for his playing, but the song itself is a rare, gentle type of gorgeous.

The sunny "First Trip is not so much a melody as a framework, jungle gym monkey bars for Hancock and his playmates to climb, with Hancock scrambling through a torrent of ideas, including some Ramsey Lewis boogie and blues.

Len Lyons included Speak Like a Child in his study "The 100 Greatest Jazz Albums of All Time, published in 1980. He referred its instrumentation back to Gil Evans' work with Davis and others, and concluded, "Herbie's arrangements here qualify as some of the most original brass-band music in jazz - far from the blaring idiom one normally associates with the word 'brass.'

Hank Mobley
Hi Voltage
(Blue Note 1968 - RVG Edition)

Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Jackie McLean, alto sax; John Hicks, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.

Mobley is best-known as a mainstream soul-jazz tenor - the original liner notes by venerated jazz entrepreneur Leonard Feather pin down his sound in between the fat heavy tenor sound of Gene Ammons and the feathery sound of Stan Getz - thanks to recordings such as this.

Completely composed by the leader, it is a Hi Voltage old-school soul-jazz throwdown between Mobley and McLean with Mitchell in between. Saxophonists Mobley and McLean rock the title track, a 24-bar blues that seems to trumpet its kinship to Lee Morgan's classic "The Sidewinder by giving Mitchell the opening and closing solo choruses, while pianist Hicks rocks the house with Ray Charles' gospel boogie style. "Two and One delivers similarly well-cooked goods, while the angular bop of "Advance Notion is fueled by Mobley's pronounced sense of swing and Hicks' opening up the throttle to full-tilt boogie.

Mobley offers two changes of pace: He dusts "Bossa De Luxe in soft pastels of Brazilian-flavored rhythmic and harmonic movement, and introduces "No More Goodbys with romantic playing both gut-level and pretty, lifting the veil off this after-hours ballad, a necessary slow number because your dancin' ass just can't boogie no more.

Wayne Shorter
Night Dreamer
(Blue Note 1964 - RVG Edition)

Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Lee Morgan, trumpet; McCoy Tyner, piano; Reggie Workman, bass; Elvin Jones, drums.

"This date came at a time when I was entering a new stage as a writer, Shorter told Nat Hentoff for this set's original liner notes. The tunes, all composed by Shorter, showcase a tenor player well versed in tradition but who employs advanced technique in an adventurous spirit to stretch the boundaries of the tradition.

Though known more as a firebrand from his incendiary work in the same Davis quintet as Hancock, in Shorter's more temperate moments on Dreamer, such as his intro to "Virgo (where he and pianist Tyner liquidly sound on the cusp of melting into "The Way You Look Tonight ), you really hear the tenor tradition from Ben Webster and others come through.

Three of the 1960s finest jazz soloists on this one session, Shorter, Tyner and Morgan blend their voices here to create THE jazz sound of that decade. Tyner is typically strong yet tender in "Charcoal Blues and "Armageddon, proving the legitimacy of his nickname "the gentle giant. In "Oriental Folk Song and the title track, Morgan swings and bops like he's got full pockets on a Saturday night!

The sharp and toothsome "Black Nile demonstrates the best of the music of its age: Shorter's high-energy opening solo is propelled in time by Tyner's chords and Jones' bass drum "bombs dropped in tandem with bassist Workman. Seemingly inspired by the leader, Tyner and Morgan swap scalding solo turns, then Jones whips the ensemble to the finish line.

"Charcoal Blues and "Armageddon prove that structure is important to both Shorter the composer and the soloist, studiously turning their melodies over and inside and out through his saxophone as if examining the facets of a precious gemstone in the light.

Various Artists
Blue Note Perfect Takes
(Blue Note - RVG Edition)

Van Gelder annotates his own remastered collection and describes Perfect Takes as "a compilation of my favorite tracks from the RVG series.

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