A retrospective of his work, Herbie Hancock’s four-CD boxed set hits most of the high points. Both acoustic and electric styles are included, as the performance dates range from 1973 to 1988. They’re not simply laid out in chronological order. Instead, Hancock and producers Bob Belden & David Rubinson have taken the time and effort to think things through and arrange this program thoughtfully. It has a natural flow, and Hancock’s various projects are always fresh & exciting.
With Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and Ron Carter, his acoustic bands have made history. His duet concerts with Chick Corea stir the senses. Discs one and two focus primarily on Hancock’s acoustic material from 1976-81, much of which has been made available only in Japan. A previously unreleased performance of “Red Clay,” recorded before a concert audience on July 18, 1977 in San Diego, finds Hubbard, Shorter, Williams, Carter and Hancock in exceptionally fine form. It’s the kind of drive they exhibit that has influenced several generations of jazz artists these past decades. Wynton Marsalis’ 1981 sizzling performance of “The Sorcerer” in Japan with Hancock’s trio was another seminal event.
Disc three combines the funkiness of Hancock’s Headhunters years with similar adventures that involve arrays of synthesizers. Much of the material embodies an appreciation for the exotic sounds of different cultures from all over the world. “Watermelon Man” gets a makeover and the main title theme from Death Wish proves intriguing. Bennie Maupin, Paul Jackson, Harvey Mason and Bill Summers make fine partners for the composer’s planned adventures. Singing his R&B ballad “Come Running to Me,” Hancock strolls through the mid-to-late ‘70s with smooth jazz in mind. The popular formula fit right with his use of synth effects; however, much of the excitement went right out the door. They were shallow years.
Disc four reflects Hancock’s crossover popularity. MTV has been quite effective at ushering in changes to the realm of popular music. The pianist’s use of elements from R&B, hip-hop and smooth jazz changed what he’d been doing in the late ‘70s and through the 1980s. “Rockit” adds a mindless landscape that would work well accompanying scenes from an Eddie Murphy movie. “Karabali” adds exotic scenes, as though from a worldly-wise vacationer returning to share with his friends. “Nobu” and “Spider” stretch out with familiar, contemporary sounds wrapped up in funk-driven packages. Gavin Christopher’s lead vocals on “Satisfied With Love” and “Stars in Your Eyes” offer romantic, contemporary sounds that appeal to a broad audience. Herbie Hancock’s been a music pioneer for quite a few years now. His creations cover a lot of territory. This retrospective provides some insight; everyone should be able to find his favorite somewhere in The Herbie Hancock Box .
Track Listing: Introduction to Maiden Voyage; Maiden Voyage; Para Oriente; Harvest Time; The Sorcerer; Diana; Finger Painting;
Personnel: Herbie Hancock- piano, electric piano, synthesizers, keyboards, vocals, vocorder, handclaps; Chick Corea- piano; Patrick Gleeson, Fundi- synth; Michael Beinhorn- synth, synth programming; Nicky Skopelitis- Fairlight drums; Will Alexander, Jeff Bova- synth programming; Wah Wah Watson, Lee Ritenour, Ray Parker, Jr.- guitar; Ron Carter, Buster Williams- bass; Jaco Pastorius, Paul Jackson, Freddie Washington, Bill Laswell- electric bass; Tony Williams, Billy Hart, Mike Clarke, Harvey Mason, James Levi, Alphonse Mouzon- drums; Bill Summers, Kenneth Nash, Sheila Escovedo- percussion; Grand Mixer D.S.T.- turntables; Daniel Ponce- bata; Baba Duru- tablas; Raul Renkow- congas; Hamid Drake- cymbals; Wayne Shorter- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bennie Maupin- saxello, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Ernie Watts, Jim Horn- flute; Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Henderson, Jay Daversa, Bud Brisbois- trumpet; Julian Priester- alto trombone; Garnett Brown- bass trombone; Bobby McFerrin, Gavin Christopher, Oren Waters, Luther Waters, Maxine Waters, Julia Waters, Bernard Fowler- vocals.