Herbie Hancock: Inventions & Dimensions (2005)
All too often the concept of a Latin jazz album by a musician without a history inside that genre implies bop solos over a heavy-handed polyrhythmic foundation. What makes pianist Herbie Hancock's Inventions & Dimensions so utterly fresh and challenging, even decades after its original 1963 release, is his willingness to try a number of Latin-sounding gambits without resorting to a Drums of Passion rhythmic backdrop. Anyone who has appreciated Bud Powell's forays into a kind of proto-Latin improvisation will appreciate Hancock's inventiveness.
The four original compositions by Hancock are far from catchy, more like sketches than his most famous pieces. Yet from these patchy and meandering tunes Hancock works up a completely mesmerizing series of colors and textures and riffs, with mutated montunos dominant in the mix. The two percussionists, Osvaldo Martinez and Willie Bobo, are steady, yet seem to be more along for the ride with Hancock than inspiration for the pianist. The same might be said for bassist Paul Chambers. They all take tasteful solos, but the star of the session is completely Hancock.
Not only is this album a thoughtful entertainment for anyone focused on the best Blue Note releases of the '60s, I hope it will be carefully studied by young musicians desiring to mine Latin jazz with seriousness and a bold spirit.
Note: this remastered reissue includes an alternate take of "Mimosa" not featured on the original release.
Track Listing: Succotash; Triangle; Jack Rabbit; Mimosa; A Jump Ahead; Mimosa (alt. take).
Personnel: Herbie Hancock: piano, Paul Chambers: bass, Willie Bobo: drums; Osvaldo "Chihuahua" Martinez: percussion.