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Herbie Hancock - Fat Albert Rotunda CD (album) cover


Herbie Hancock

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

As the writer of Watermelon Man's (one of the 60's best known soul-jazz hit), Hancock was used to a certain non-jazz fame, although he tried his best to shrug it off. But writing some of Antonioni's Blow Up soundtrack (a seminal counter-culture movie) and writing music for Bill Cosby's comedy shows (this album is result of that collaboration), this was more of an anti-mainstream attitude, very in vogue in the serious jazz circles that was applauding albums like Maiden Voyage or Speak Like A Child..

Fat Albert Rotunda is probably HH's most important record one of the hinges between his different periods, the previous being his Blue Note era (65 to 69) straight jazz series of solo album (he was also a member of Miles Davis' 60's quintet) with Maiden Voyage being the highlight of the era. The FAR release is the first of what we shall call his Mwandishi period (70 to 74) , or if you want, when HH veered towards jazz rock, and the next period being a bit later (in 75) his next period the Head Hunter jazz-funk era. FAR is the hinge between his acoustic jazz and his electric jazz rock career, but it's also the first album of a new contract with a new label (Warner Bros), under which he will have almost total artistic freedom, and under which he will make four stunning album, three of them close to experimental jazz-rock, going a tad further than Zawinul's cohorts of Weather Report.

If FAR (released in 69 and sporting a fridge artwork) gets included in this period, it's partly because of the label it is published on, and partly because Herbie finally attacks (includes) electricity in his music, but if a jazz-rock album in some forms, it can't really be a Mwandishi album. First the line-up is full-jazz line-up playing sometimes exciting jazz-rock, but also often carrying an instrumental Chicago Transit Authority-type of brass-rock, that gets my nod, because not only are the musicians top masters at their trades, they make their rock counterparts looks twee and unrehearsed (which is probably even worse, since these giants were probably winging it on the second take).

Starting on the delicious brass-rock of Wiggle Waggle, the album hovers between straight jazz and full- blown jazz-rock, often taking the brass rock route as middle road. When we talk of HH's electric jazz rock, one must realize we're talking of Herbie's electric piano and Buster Williams' electric bass and that's it..As in WW as well as Lil' Brother, when HH's cohorts approach this style/genre, they simply dwarf all these rock formations, but it's clear these guys are seasoned veterans (sometimes entering their third decade of music business) whereas the rock groups where just recording their first albums.

Other tracks attack more directly the newly Davis-founded jazz rock, but taking the shy approach, not daring to go deep into it with this '"standard" line-up. Tracks like Fat Mama, Here He Comes, Fat Albert Rotunda (the track) are incredibly fascinating, showing Herbie's slow gradual grasp of the "rock" world, even if his "black attitude' guided him towards funk. In general these are my fave tracks, but I like the brass-rock as well and even the straight jazz tune are nice. not a weak track ob FAR. As mentioned above, there are still some pure jazz tracks on FAR, and Bedtime Story and Jessica are two of them. What's most striking is that the FAR overall feeling is a very happy one, one floating on goodwill and bon entendre, one flowing easily for the listener and groovy to have dance. Indeed, remember that the music was set for Cosby's comedy show, and we can easily see that the music fit Cosby's usually superb humour.

It's a real shame that these WB issue cannot be found in another shape than that ugly orange masters series (they've done the same for most of Ertegun's Atlantic label jazz artiste, doubled by the stupid idea of making these ugly series on Digipack format casing, thus ruining that format's intended artwork enhancement project completely ineffective. Another bad point is that the visible end-side now boasts a replica of Coltrane's Impulse label, with its orange and black colours. Outside these collector's consideration, the sound is perfect, the music fascinating and that's probably the most important.

Report this review (#186100)
Posted Friday, October 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First after-Miles Herbie Hancock solo album. Hancock turned jazz-funk for a first time and released perfect album. Musicians team is almost all-stars ( still jazz-stars), Hancock is playing vintage 60-s funk jazz with Fender piano rich inclusions. All musicians are high level professionals, and you can hear it! Originally the album is based on soundtrack for the Bill Cosby TV show Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Still not his heavy, complex and in moments monotonous funk fusion of later works, there is melodic, light and groovy mix of funk and brassy be-bop. Still as very early fusion example, it is perfect be-bop and fusion mix, demonstrating great Hancock musical abilities. And very pleasant listening as well.

Report this review (#255969)
Posted Monday, December 14, 2009 | Review Permalink

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