The Essential Herbie Hancock, a double-CD set spanning a forty-year body of work, presents a sample of Hancock's bold explorations of various jazz styles. The compilation runs in nearly chronological order, highlighting releases on major jazz labels like Blue Note, Columbia and Verve. The track order makes very clear the varying creative avenues that Hancock has traversed over many decades. Bob Belden is to be commended for providing excellent liner notes which help the listener towards an overall perspective of Hancock's career.
Disc one features classic jazz tunes: "Watermelon Man, "Maiden Voyage, "Cantaloupe Island and "The Sorcerer, all composed and recorded during the '60s. Also included on disc one is the infectious groove-driven 1973 hit "Chameleon, a tune that would establish Hancock's Headhunters band and his new funky electric jazz style of writing, which he would continue to explore through his performances and compositions in the '70s and '80s. Disc two continues with the documentation of Hancock's electronic keyboard and synthesizer sounds, experimentations that would lead to his hugely successful 1983 MTV hit "Rockit.
The collection's inclusion of "Tell Me a Bedtime Story from Fat Albert Rotunda and "Joanna's Theme from Death Wish gives a sampling of some Hancock's soundtrack writing. Both discs also do a fine job of focusing on some of his standard jazz performances. "Circle and "Milestones feature the obvious influence of Miles in Hancock's career, and "Finger Painting spotlights Hancock's hard bop style with the jazz legends in his V.S.O.P. group.
Hancock's 2000 interpretation of "St. Louis Blues, featuring Stevie Wonder on vocals and harmonica, points to what seems to be his next direction for exploration. Besides this release, Hancock has also recently released Possibilities, a CD and documentary comprised of collaborations with some of today's foremost popular music stars.
With a wealth of material to choose from, this very well thought-out compilation is a fine guide for the novice listener or an interesting retrospective for the established fan.
Track Listing: Watermelon Man; 'Round Midnight; Cantaloupe Island; Maiden Voyage; Circle; The Sorcerer; Tell Me a Bedtime Story; Hidden Shadows; Chameleon; Joanna's Theme; Butterfly; People Music; Milestones; 4 A.M.; Come Running to Me; Finger Painting; Stars in Your Eyes; Rockit; St. Louis Blues; Manhattan.
Personnel: Alex Al: bass;
Michael Beinhorn: electronic drums, Dmx, mini Moog;
Garnett Brown: trombone;
Terri Lyne Carrington: drums;
Ron Carter: bass;
Mike Clarke: drums;
George Coleman: tenor sax;
Johnny Coles: flugelhorn;
Miles Davis: trumpet;
Jerry Dodgion: alto flute ;
Sheila Escovedo: percussion;
Patrick Gleeson: resonator;
Dexter Gordon: tenor sax;
Grandmixer D.ST: turntables;
Herbie Hancock: synthesizer, piano, keyboards, Hammond organ, electric piano; vocals, Arp Echoplex, Fender Rhodes, Oberheim, mini Moog, Arp Pro Soloist, Arp 2600, Arp Odyssey, Arp Strings, Fairlight CMI, Micro Moog, Rhythm Sequencing, Clavitar;
Billy Hart: drums;
Albert "Tootie" Heath: drums;
Eddie Henderson: trumpet;
Joe Henderson: flute, tenor Sax;
Billy Higgins: drums;
Freddie Hubbard: trumpet, cornet;
Paul Jackson: electric bass;
Thad Jones: flugelhorn;
Bill Laswell: electric bass;
James Levi: drums;
Harvey Mason, Sr.: drums;
Bennie Maupin: bass clarinet, alto flute, soprano and tenor sax;
Roy McCurdy: drums;
Alphonse Mouzon: drums, keyboards;
Baba Duru Oshun: tabla;
Jaco Pastorius: electric bass;
Peter Phillips: bass trombone;
Daniel Ponce: bata;
Julian Priester: alto trombone;
Raul Rekow: conga;
Mickey Roker: drums;
Sonny Rollins: tenor sax;
Wayne Shorter: tenor sax;
Bill Summers: percussion;
Greg Walker: vocals;
Butch Warren: bass;
Freddie "Ready Freddie" Washington: electric bass;
Wah Wah Watson: guitar;
Buster Williams: bass, electric bass;
Tony Williams: drums;
Stevie Wonder: harmonica, vocals.
I love jazz because it's been a life's work.
I was first exposed to jazz by my father.
I met Hampton Hawes.
The best show I ever attended was Les McCann.
The first jazz record I bought was Herbie Hancock.
My advice to new listeners is to listen at a comfortable volume.