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Herbie Hancock - Crossings CD (album) cover

CROSSINGS

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.26 | 339 ratings

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Magnum Vaeltaja
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Man, Herbie Hancock could do no wrong during his legendary Mwandishi era. I mean, how could anyone, really? A marriage of traditional African music with contemporary electronica, all in a jazz context. With a guiding philosophy like that, the creative possibilities are endless! With this second instalment in the series, Herbie was presumably looking to evolve beyond the initial "Mwandishi" album, because he certainly did, and did so gracefully.

As great as "Mwandishi" was as a jazz album, there really wasn't too much on display that couldn't be found elsewhere in the jazz world, but with "Crossings", a sort of differentiation was beginning to develop. It wouldn't be until "Sextant" that Herbie and his bandmates would have something completely and wholly unique, but that's a different story. Because this developmental album captures some real magic, and is a defining pinnacle of Herbie's creativity.

So what makes "Crossings" one of those albums to write home about? That would be the album's first side, "Sleeping Giant". A true behemoth if I've ever heard one, this track feels almost like its own side-long prog epic, in a purely jazz setting. While extended, 20+ minute recordings are not atypical of jazz at all, what makes "Sleeping Giant" so remarkable is the sheer variety of moods that it manages to capture and the level of structural development that it undertakes. This is no 24 minute noodling session on top of a chord progression; this is a bona fide musical excursion. From the primordial opening, where traditional ethnic drums layer over top one another, to the sleek, cool soundscapes more akin to urban nightlife, there's a fantastic sense of pacing throughout. And the whole thing flows very organically, this isn't an awkward start-and-stop type of piece, or a "prog by numbers" medley by any means. From a compositional perspective, this is a true achievement of jazz.

Side two doesn't meet quite the same "wow-worthy" standard as "Sleeping Giant", but it's not a wasted section of vinyl at all. "Quasar" offers a heavier focus on the electronics that Herbie was experimenting with, which creates some very interesting sonic palettes. This carries over into "Water Torture", which closes off the album with a lazier, more subdued approach. My overall appraisal? Well, a stellar side and a decent side is still a very fine album when you average it all out. For serious jazz fans, I'd probably rate this is as essential listening. In fact, "Quasar" and "Water Torture" are very fine tracks, just not my cup of tea. For the prog sphere, though, I'm not sure if I'd extend my praise quite so far. This isn't a prog album after all (even though it is a very progressive one by most metrics). With that in mind, I'd still consider this to be an excellent jazz album for prog fans to pick up, if not exclusively for the fascinating structural creativity of side one. 4 stars.

Magnum Vaeltaja | 4/5 |

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