A double-milestone year for jazz, 2001 marked the 75th anniversary of the births of both Miles Davis and John Coltrane. With that in mind, Herbie Hancock went on tour with a quintet modeled after his V.S.O.P. bands of the '70s and '80s and the Tribute to Miles band of the '90s, which in turn were modeled after the 1965-1968 Miles Davis Quintet. The question this disc proposes: Can you go home yet again? Hancock preferred to dodge that one, saying that he was attempting to push the music onward in the Davis/Coltrane spirit of adventure rather than play for nostalgia. But essentially, despite the often unblinkingly hard-nosed soloing and the sometimes radical reworking of the old tunes, the conception of this idiom is that of Miles, and Michael Brecker's often brilliant, searching tenor sax work owes its soul to the example of Trane. Although the quintet's Los Angeles gig on October 11, 2001, was rather disappointing, the Toronto concert recorded here was a big improvement, with two weeks of roadwork evidently having the desired tightening effect. Though Hancock's piano gradually became more abstract and disconnected with its surroundings over the years, here he is in touch with his colleagues. Brecker provides the most fervent individual statement with an unaccompanied rendition of "Naima" that amounts to a virtual encyclopedia of tenor saxophone technique. Roy Hargrove does a serviceable job on trumpet and flügelhorn, trying to fill some heavy shoes, and as accomplished as the rhythm team of John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) is, you miss the irreplaceable combustion of Ron Carter and especially the late Tony Williams (compare the original Davis recording of "The Sorcerer" with this inward, less dynamic, less driving version). The most strikingly reworked cover tune is a slow, drawn-out, mournful take on "Impressions," almost an elegy for Coltrane, and Brecker delivers the eulogy with fire in the belly. There is new material from Hargrove ("The Poet"), Brecker ("D Trane"), and the three headliners ("Misstery"), none of which expands much beyond the parameters of the Davis and Coltrane models. While this quintet does not kick over old boundaries, it does make good, uncompromisingly intelligent music.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell