Herbie Hancock

Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings

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None can argue that Herbie Hancock's Blue Note recordings are mostly jazz milestones, the somewhat overlooked Warner Bros. period remains one of his most creatively adventurous, and enduring. The three albums presented here all offer different sides of Hancock after he left Miles Davis. All are presented here in their entirety, with copious notes by Bob Blumenthal, who interviewed Hancock for the package. The set begins with the wildly joyous, deep, funky groove of Fat Albert's Groove, the music Hancock recorded for Bill Cosby's Saturday morning cartoon show. These seven tracks, with their three-horn front line (originated for Hancock on his final Blue Note album, Speak Like a Child) of Joe Henderson on flute and tenor, Johnny Coles' trumpet, and Garnett Brown's trombone, are singing, lyrical funk grooves that predated Headhunters by a few years and swung way harder by sticking back and lying in the groove as much as possible. Hancock's electric piano teamed with Tootie Heath and Buster Williams to form an unbeatable, gutsy, and stomping rhythm section. The band was fleshed out on a couple of tracks by additional horns, additional drums and percussion, and electric guitars. After such a melodic entry, Warners' executives must have been shocked when Hancock brought them the abstract funkified impressionism of his emerging Mwandishi band on its selftitled offering. Comprised of three long tracks, the album showcased Hancock's use of free jazz and long intervallic inventions on modal frames. Only Buster Williams remained from the previous set. The rest of the sextet includes Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Julian Priester, and Bennie Maupin. also This same band with the addition of a few sidemen recorded the Crossings with the addition of synthesizer player Patrick Gleeson. This final record sank from the market like a stone; it found some success a year later, after Hancock had moved to Columbia, to issue Sextant and then Headhunters. Crossings melds street music, modal jazz and the expansive sonic approach of Sun Ra fom this same period; it's approach keeps jazz close to the street while fully exploring the varying tonal and rhythmic changes that were going on post-Coltrane. Again, only three tracks appear, though the first is a long, brazen expressionistic suite ("Sleeping Giant"). The musical evolution present in this double set reveals the composer, arranger, and pianist as a large scale visionary.

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