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The Herbie Hancock Box

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Herbie Hancock 10/1/2002

Review

Given that Blue Note Records has issued a definitive 1960s box set of Hancock's earliest -- and some consider his most seminal -- work, and the literally dozens of best-ofs that have been issued, more by Columbia than by anybody else, this set with its spare futuristic design might at first glance seem like overkill, as in, "do we really need another Herbie Hancock collection, especially a damned box set?" In this case, it's very important to take a second and even third look. For starters, this set is housed in a see-though plastic box, all four CDs clearly visible on spare individual trays. On a fifth tray rests the CD booklet. On the bottom of the box is a sticker identifying the contents within. In the booklet are complete liners by Herbie himself (actually, excepts from an interview by Chuck Mitchell), and gorgeous reproductions of the album covers. It's a cool coffee table conversation piece for hep cats and kitties who are into jazz -- or those who just like happening accoutrements in their living spaces. More substantial is that the material covered here encompasses a whopping 23 albums recorded over 13 years! There are 34 tracks spread out over these four discs, and while little here is completely unreleased, a number of cuts have never been made available in the States before. Lastly, given all of the Hancock material on the market, this set is the only one to capture the huge depth and breadth of Hancock's musically restless vision as it has been recorded. The discs are not presented in chronological order, and that, too, is in keeping with Hancock's modus operandi. Disc one starts with the first V.S.O.P. project from 1976, which was the Miles quintet with Freddie Hubbard playing all new tunes, so you hear the introduction to "Maiden Voyage" and the track itself. Next, it shifts to 1979 with Hancock's Live Under the Sky album, with a killer version of "Para Oriente," and then shifts yet again to the Piano album in 1978, where Hancock plays a "Harvest Time" solo before moving to "The Sorcerer" from the Quartet album of 1981. Before the disc has concluded, you've moved through more V.S.O.P., and the theme from the Round Midnight soundtrack. Disc two features more of these same treatments from the same periods generally, but features a killer version of V.S.O.P. going for broke on a completely unreleased version of Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay" from 1977. Disc three is nearly worth the price of the box alone. This is where you get to explore the electric side of Hancock, and the various guises he worked under from the time he immediately left Miles and worked with some musicians who were totally outside his frame of reference. For instance, there is the glorious "Rain Dance" from 1972, with a large band that included trombonist Julian Priester, synthesist Patrick Gleeson, and drummer Billy Hart. Also, along with more well-known classics such as "Watermelon Man," from Head Hunters, you get tracks from Flood; Thrust; the killer Death Wish title theme with Wah Wah Watson and Lee Ritenour on guitars; "Sun Touch" from Man-Child, featuring the most beautiful flute solo ever played by Ernie Watts; Secrets; Sunlight; and the outstanding "4 a.m.," from the Mr. Hands album. This track, with a quartet that features the late Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams, and percussionist Bill Summers, reveals the amazing depth of empathy Hancock had for the musicians he employed. His trading of lower runs with Jaco provides a listen to how tender Pastorius could be when presented with a keyboard player who was content to let him sing on the bass, and also how Hancock never has the need to dominate the proceedings, preferring to let the band speak for itself on his tunes. Disc four also features Hancock's more electric ventures. While the material ranges chronologically from "Chameleon" on Head Hunters to a Bill Laswell remake of "Maiden Voyage" in 1988, the sense of continuity that the rest of the box has doesn't seem to flow as easily. The rather jarring juxtapositions of "Stars in Your Eyes," from 1980, to "Rock It," in 1983, to "Calypso" from Mr. Hands in 1980, to "Nobu," in 1974, is too vast an expanse -- mood-wise as well as aesthetically -- to bridge. Perhaps it's the range of musicians that includes everyone from Ray Parker Jr. and Sheila E to Harvey Mason and Tony Williams, just to name a few. While the individual bands add up to pure delight, the track-to-track moves atmospheres, even in the funk-hip-hop worldview from bumpin' street funk to jagged, angular grooves, to near-overdriven bass, and timelines that obliterate continuity. In all, this is a small complaint; doubtless, many will use the random feature on a CD player to remedy this, or the programming feature. The Herbie Hancock Box does stand as a more than representative view of the musician's work with Columbia and reveals how lasting and influential his contributions have been, as well as how diverse, and that's really the point. Hours upon hours of pleasure await the listener who drops the cash for this fine artifact. ~ Thom Jurek
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Introduction to Maiden Voyage Herbie Hancock 4:32
  3. 2 Maiden Voyage Herbie Hancock 13:19
  4. 3 Para Oriente Herbie Hancock 7:15
  5. 4 Harvest Time Herbie Hancock 4:47
  6. 5 The Sorcerer Herbie Hancock 7:17
  7. 6 Diana Herbie Hancock 4:32
  8. 7 Finger Painting Herbie Hancock 6:40
  9. 8 'Round Midnight [Cover] Herbie Hancock 5:32
  10. 9 The Eye of the Hurricane Herbie Hancock 18:29
  11. 1 Domo Herbie Hancock 12:21
  12. 2 Dolphin Dance Herbie Hancock 10:12
  13. 3 Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away) Herbie Hancock 8:51
  14. 4 Eighty-One Herbie Hancock 13:1
  15. 5 Milestones Herbie Hancock 6:37
  16. 6 Stella by Starlight/On Green Dolphin Street Herbie Hancock 7:3
  17. 7 Red Clay [Previously Unreleased] Herbie Hancock 10:54
  18. 1 Rain Dance Herbie Hancock 9:13
  19. 2 Watermelon Man Herbie Hancock 6:29
  20. 3 Butterfly Herbie Hancock 11:17
  21. 4 Death Wish (Main Title) Herbie Hancock 6:10
  22. 5 Actual Proof Herbie Hancock 8:25
  23. 6 Sun Touch Herbie Hancock 5:8
  24. 7 4 A.M. Herbie Hancock 5:21
  25. 8 Come Running to Me Herbie Hancock 8:24
  26. 9 People Music Herbie Hancock 7:6
  27. 1 Chameleon Herbie Hancock 15:41
  28. 2 Stars in Your Eyes Herbie Hancock 7:2
  29. 3 Rockit Herbie Hancock 5:24
  30. 4 Calypso Herbie Hancock 6:34
  31. 5 Satisfied With Love Herbie Hancock 6:28
  32. 6 Karabali Herbie Hancock 5:14
  33. 7 Spider Herbie Hancock 7:20
  34. 8 Nobu Herbie Hancock 7:23
  35. 9 Maiden Voyager/B. Bop Herbie Hancock 6:30

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