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Herbie Hancock - Thrust CD (album) cover

THRUST

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.14 | 69 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
4 stars After anteing up for the high-stakes jazz rock/fusion poker game that was being played in the mid 70s with their impressive "Headhunters" LP, Herbie Hancock and his ultra-talented cohorts proceeded to boldly raise the stakes by releasing this splendid album right on its heels. While the original lineup of the Mahavishnu Orchestra was folding, Weather Report was investigating the spacier, more esoteric angles of the genre and Return To Forever was busy blending hard rock ingredients with jazzed-up spices, Herbie & Co. were intent on stretching the boundaries of progressive funk to its limits. HH is quoted as saying "Rather than work with jazz musicians that could play funk, I worked with funk musicians that could play jazz." Makes sense to me. The result is "Thrust," a fantastic quartet of songs that never fail to entertain and amaze.

"Palm Grease" starts things off with drummer Mike Clark laying down a basic pattern before the whole band saunters in one at a time to build the funkhouse brick by brick. Bill Summers' exciting percussion provides a quick break, then the group goes right back to work like skilled carpenters. After a key change Bennie Maupin puts a wah-wah effect on his tenor saxophone while Hancock displays his expertise on the electric piano. The whole piece is more in the vein of "an exploration of the groove" than a virtuoso showcase and it's incredibly cohesive. The synthesized strings that roll in over the finale allow for a psychedelic exit.

"Actual Proof" begins with the funk monster running at a torrid pace underneath a somewhat leisurely alto flute/synth melody line but then evolves into an intense trio of drums, bass and electric piano. The rhythm section of Clark and bassist Paul Jackson is unreal as they sizzle like frying bacon below Herbie's hot electric piano ride and together they play as if they're triplets joined at the hip. This is one fervent throw-down, my friends. Finally Maupin's flute floats in to lighten things up and to keep things from ending in a tragic occurrence of spontaneous combustion.

The aptly named "Butterfly" is a welcome change of pace at this point. It floats like a. well, you know as Bennie's deep (and so fine) bass clarinet creates the beautiful melody that sings over the hypnotic, pulsating beat. He then delivers an exquisite soprano sax ride followed by Hancock's sly Rhodes piano and tasteful synthesizers. Before you realize it, though, the stealthy rhythm section escalates the number into double-time briefly before they all return to the original feel and reprise the soothing melody. It's a remarkable tune and my favorite cut on the album.

"Spank-A-Lee" wakes you up like a rude slap in the face as its furious tempo sets the mood for a prog funkathon that's hotter than Hades. They don't leave anything in the tank on this blistering track as Maupin's tenor saxophone blazes away over the Clark/Jackson inferno roiling below. Herbie and Bill do their best to keep things from flying asunder but you can tell that they're being relentlessly sucked into the cyclone like swimmers caught in a rip tide. Eventually the band eases off the gas to throttle down with some cool accents and kicks before gracefully landing the mother ship softly back on terra firma. This is one roller coaster ride that's not for the elderly or squeamish.

This assemblage of four extended tracks is a primo example of top-notch instrumental progressive music. For those who have yet to delve into the sometimes dizzying but exhilarating world of jazz rock/fusion (with a heavy dose of funk in this case) I don't hesitate to say that this album and its predecessor would be a wonderful place to begin. These proggers weren't fooling around. 4.2 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |

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