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Herbie Hancock - Crossings CD (album) cover


Herbie Hancock

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
5 stars The second "Mwandishi" album is Crossings and comes out in 72 with a stunning "African" artwork (something missing its predecessor), courtesy of Robert Springett (a regular Hancock collab until the end of the 70's) and with an unchanged line-up, but this time a certain Patrick Gleason is adding a whole bunch of electronic "noises" on his Moog and in his Frisco studio, where the album was recorded in March. Gleeson is a university student and one of the first to own a moog and he will persuade Herbie to leave him the master tapes, over which he will add his "noises". Herbie loved it, his bandmates a tad less (one of them apparently said Gleeson's ARP synth sounded like a vacuum cleaner) and the specialized press hated it and shot mercilessly the album in flame, so again it sold too few, partly because the WB label was not a jazz-rock label and didn't push it enough. In the jazz realm, rarely a bigger mistake happened, when Warner got rid of Hancock's contract. Herbie would then leave Frisco and sign with Columbia, the label that Weather Report, Return To Forever, Miles Davis and Mahavishnu orchestra called home. On his second album, Columbia hit the jackpot with Head Hunters.

The Crossings album opens on African drums mixed with electronic space noises that soon evoke the dawn's tropical forest noises, before Hancock slowly invades the aural space just at sunrise. A few minutes later, we're already cooking under the morning sun, as Herbie's piano calms down after a wild solo and the whole tracks hides for shelter. Williams' bass soon picks up the pace, reviving the track with Priester's trombones and Maupin's bass clarinet, then herbie again. A little later, there are more outstanding moments, especially the wild bass/piano exchange around the 13 and 15th minutes. Later on, the track goes a little dissonant under the mid-afternoon torrid heat, an understandable side-effect, but once the cruising speed is reached the tracks spread its wings to full grandeur. A bit later, the tracks dies at sundown in sad brass death throes. So much going on and not a moment of rest that your head might just saturate and the more you listen, the more you hear Gleason's electronics invading the whole album, permeating almost every tracks' moments. The aptly-titled almost 25-mins Sleeping Giant is a monumental Hancock-penned track, probably his best ever, that is clearly THE definitive Mwandishi statement

The flipside features two Maupin-penned tracks that together equal the previous Sleeping Giant, not only in length, but in quality as well. Again starting on electronic noises and percussions, Quasar is soon taken over by Maupin's flute and Williams' dissonant bass. The 7-mins+ track Quasar is a succession of dissonant and harmonic moments, until its dies into Gleason's Black Hole and will not turn into a supernova. Well, something electronic does escape Gleason's Black Hole, and it turns out to be the Maupin-penned 14-mins Water Torture track, where it's hard to guess why Gleason didn't get partial credits for it. Indeed his electronica is all over the track, often answering Maupin and Henderson's wind instruments;

An awesome album, probably my fave (with Sextant as a runner-up), Crossings is IMHO Hancock's apex. In his second album after BB and away from Miles, Herbie manages an album that matches BB's quality. Between BB and some of Floyd's outer space tracks, Crossings is indeed an aptly?titled album, as it represents a crossing point between all kinds of musical directions. Simply astounding

Report this review (#186103)
Posted Friday, October 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Crossings is an incredible record, one of the finest pieces of music I have ever heard in any genre. Abstract jazz fusion, 20th century composition, modern electronics, African poly-rhythms and a psychedelic production that pays attention to every little detail combine to create a jazz style for a future that hasn't happened yet. Almost forty years later this album still sounds incredibly ahead of it's time.

Side one belongs to Herbie, and his Sleeping Giant is a massive sprawling futuristic African suite that alternates intense avant-funk improvs with quieter mysterious sections. Herbie's playing during the abstract improvisations is incredibly intense and shows how he is the master at building a solo over a modal vamp. The quiet sections are even more inventive as Herbie shows he is also a master of modern composition and orchestration and uses his three piece horn section and electronics to build mini-orchestral textures that recall Stravinsky and Ravel. The ability to compose on a sophisticated level is one of the things that make Hancock and his band members in The Sextant a notch above other psychedelic ensembles of this time period.

Side two belongs to woodwind virtuoso Bennie Maupin, who also proves he knows how to write and orchestrate by turning in two incredible aural tone poems. Throughout the album Maupin's playing on soprano sax and bass clarinet help add to that early 20th century Russian and French chamber music sound that seems to permeate much of this album. Often his melodies recall Moussourgsky, Stravinsky and others.

Both of Bennie's compositional contributions to this album are masterpieces. Quasar is tense and mysterious and features a 'futuristic' wordless soprano melody that is similar to the classic Star Trek melody. Much of the playing on this song is abstract and improvisational, but the musicians stay calm and focused and avoid indulgent improv clichés. The reultant music is delicate and sensitive, a far cry from your cliché avant-jazz 'freak out'.

Side two closes with Water Torture, in which a deep slow bass line doubled on bass clarinet sounds like a cross between the slowest funk groove ever and yet another dark Russian composition. Once again the electronics and carefully orchestrated horn section combine to make previously unheard sound textures as we drift on an almost a-rhythmical ocean of sound. The big plus on this track is that Herbie lays it on thick with the Mellotron. Towards the end we are mostly hearing impressionistic Mellotron melodies and small interjections from the horns for that futuristic orchestral sound again.

Despite the inventive playing and composing, the real star of this album is producer David Rubinson. This has to be one of the most meticulously produced albums ever, with every bit of reverb, echo and volume boost coming together to make an absolute aural masterpiece.

Report this review (#204862)
Posted Monday, March 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Nothing like it had ever been done. By the end of the 1960s, modern jazz had traveled a world away from its humble beginnings, having inspired as many non-jazz artists as it had produced stars. Keyboardist Herbie Hancock was a central part of that American jazz renaissance which saw not only the relatively young form come into its own as a truly viable art, but unexpectedly grow into something beyond even the bloody revolutions of John Coltrane, quiet coups of Miles Davis, and hostile takeovers of Tony Williams & John McLaughlin. Hancock's 1972 offering was an altogether new sound, and though its moods and textures had been gingerly approached by others (and Hancock himself on the previous Mwandashi),Crossings was a fully realized music come of age at just the right moment. "The new avant-garde has finally found a direction", he reflected in 1971, "but it's like a spectrum. It's not one direction; there are many and they all have to do with giving people an experience rather than just giving them a bunch of notes". This 'experience' set the tone for most of the important directions in jazz - and much music in general - that followed. A fresh voice of improvisation and adventure that began finding its way into almost every film, TV show, and jazz & fusion record. It was real, urban, alive, and it was terribly American.

Billy Hart's drums and the child's play of the band on various pan-African percussives create the drum conversation that opens 'Sleeping Giant', Hancock's electric piano eventually chiming in, Buster Williams' resonant upright bass rises and falls and things begin to heat up nicely. A quiet reflection at the 7-minute mark vibrates with the bitter experimentation of Schoenberg and evolves into bumpy funk before slowing again for a refrain of brass, the band throbbing with Benny Maupin's bass clarinet and Eddie Henderson's flugelhorn dueling with the bass & drums, ending softly after twenty-five minutes. Uneasy 'Quasar' settles on a complex Latin rhythm and then dissolves into cosmic pie, and 14-minute 'Water Torture' further explores the griot drum languages of the Mande and Soninke as it wanders and weeps through the streets of a sleeping city.

A transcendent experience that has grown over time into one of the most powerful, moving and innovative artistic statements of the modern era, and no music like it has since emerged.

Report this review (#209756)
Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Probably the biggest difference between "Crossings" and the previous album "Mwandashi" is the electronics. David Rubinson, Hancock's manager and producer thought that adding synths to the music might link the band to a wider audience even though he knew the music here was far from being commercial. So Rubinson brought in Patrick Gleeson and his moog synthesizer. Although Herbie "was skepticle at first, he was quite taken by the synthesizer and asked Gleeson not only to do the overdubs on his album but join the group, making it one of the first groups to take a synthesizer out on the road. On the strength of the new electronic sounds,the band was booked into rock venues such as Filmore, Filmore East, the Winterlands and San Francisco's Bath / And.The spiritual / sensual space grooves of his "Crossings" music and the spiral of rhythms swirling within created music that not only was of it's time but has outlived them". Hancock once said this about people who hear his music but know really nothing about it. "Their hearing can sometimes be so pure that it can go right to the heart, and they can really love it without having any intellectual understanding of it. And that kind of music, even though intellect went into playing it, the purpose was really non-intellectual. It was purely emotional". Man that so describes me sometimes as a listener.

"Sleeping Giant" is the side long, almost 25 minute opener composed by Herbie. I haven't mentioned the album cover yet, but let me just say it's stunning. And the first 2 1/2 minutes of this track make me think of that picture.The drums, percussion and electronics then fade as electric piano and bass take over, drums continue. A calm 7 1/2 minutes in as we get lots of atmosphere. Deep bass after 9 minutes then trumpet joins in. It's building. It kicks in after 11 minutes. Another calm before 13 minutes before it kicks in again.The electric piano and drums sound great 15 minutes in.The contrasts continue.

"Quasar" is a Maupin composition. Actually the last song is as well.These are my two favourite tracks on here. Piano to start before we get some cool sounding synths. A melody comes in at 1 1/2 minutes but it's brief. Flute before 2 1/2 minutes. Listen to the different sounds that come and go here. Just listen.This is a fantastic song. "Water Torture" continues with the atmosphere, in fact this is haunting. Bass and a melody before 2 minutes but then it settles again as sounds continue to come and go. Check out the mellotron and synths at 10 1/2 minutes !

You might call this experimental, avant and atmospheric Jazz. You might call it amazing as well.

Report this review (#210970)
Posted Friday, April 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars It was at the end on August, 1969 that Herbie Hancock resigned from Quintet of Miles Davis. He went out to travel by using off of work. And, it is said that it upset one's health immediately before the homecoming. At that time, Miles Davis adopts active very much Chick Corea for the regular in Jazz Scene. It was said that it had already had an idea left to pursue own music after Herbie Hancock had combined from the origin of Miles Davis.

As for the work of Herbie that had been announced from Blue Note in parallel with work with Miles Davis, a high quality work including very various ideas was being offered. Especially, the evaluation is still known as a high work among listeners as for albums such as "Maiden Voyage" and "Speak Like A Child". Character and performance of not usual pianist when Herbie leaves origin of Miles Davis but electric piano. Or, the ability of the composition and the arrangement might evolved greatly, too. And, Miles Davis started greatly changing own music character and whether for taking a progressive element to agree with them, Herbie also accomplishing a further leap for music.

It made remarks on Herbie Hancock at that time.

"Everything starts from that album. "

The album showed "Mwandishi". Herbie multiplied the period from New York to San Francisco for two months and just finished the tour at that time. The name of "Mwandishi Band" will be adopted taking the opportunity of the recording of "Mwandishi" though musicians who had participated in the recording for the production of "Mwandishi" were introducing themselves the name that is called "Herbie Hancock Sextet" at first. "Mwandishi" is a religious name of Herbie Hancock. The member of this "Mwandishi Band" is said that feelings had combined for the music that Herbie creates because it had the same thought as a companion of the same religious persuasion. And, each religious name was being given also to the member of each band.

A pure Jazz fan might also have the opinion made to have the part where the content of his work at this time is difficult for the content of the work that Herbie Hancock is transfered the register to Warner Bros and left. However, the music that Herbie Hancock at this time created and the accomplished world will be able to be called one of the very important points when talking about his music. It is said that Herbie that started "Mwandishi Band" did live every evening to make the rehearsal a band deliberately repeatedly and to evolve music very.

And, this "Crossings" is recorded in February, 1972 when one year or more passed from the announcement of "Mwandishi". This album became the last work of Herbie in Warner Bros. Herbie will boldly reflect the machine parts of the electron in the work in full scale till then. Especially, the adoption of the synthesizer and Mellotron will have been the indispensable elements because it pursued progressive music that was indeed epoch- making and had greatly exceeded the frame of Jazz. Herbie Hancock made remarks that this album was produced. 「It tried to make throbbed music by making good use of the keyboard and the percussion in this work. And, it tried to add a fantastic sound at the same time. 」

These elements might surely be reflected in the album. Effective usage of synthesizer and Mellotron. Or, the construction of a rhythm of Funk listened to everywhere and a fantastic sound might already conceived the part connected with "Sextant".

The element of various music is exactly blocked in "Sleeping Giant". Part of Jazz and Fusion. And, done consistent Groove flows. The oneness of the band that produces the rhythm of the rhythm of 6/8 in fast Passage is splendid. A fantastic melody of Herbie there twines. And, it is continuous in the top visited during the tune many times. The hit of the tune by the transposition will increase the tension and offer the listener a suitable imagination for the name of a song. The part where a few Groove appears might succeed as a tune, too. A chaotic element advances with the power kept.

"Quasar" is a tune composed of the part of five. The part of ensemble of the band is splendidly reproduced while shooting the light of [**]. The air of sedition will create one space before long. Sense to use musical instruments as sound effect. Or, the flute of Benny Maupin expands the creativity of the tune. There might already be an element connected with "Sextant" also in this tune. However, it is necessary to count these music that Herbie did to the end at the time of Warner Bros surely as the top of one music.

"Water Torture" starts from a racial part. The creation of the enchantment element and the sound of the ceremony might be very reformative parts in the music of Herbie. The tune conceives the part of some Free Jazz. However, the entire flow of the album is never changed. It serves and the album is consistent. And, it succeeds. The effect of Mellotron is also preeminent. The comparison might be unnecessary though the impression of some film music is given here. The work is Jazz Rock and is progressive to the end.

The work of Herbie Hancock left with Warner Bros is indeed progressive. Even if this album is verified from the viewpoint of Prog Rock, it is reformative enough. "Crossings" will be able to be counted exactly as one of the masterpieces.

Report this review (#237856)
Posted Monday, September 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars The perfect fusion record: Herbie Hancock's "Crossings"

I bought a copy of this because I like the Headhunters and Moonchild lp's and Crossings was rated very high here on PA. And a nice piece of advice it was! The record is pure beauty with style. Reaching classic jazzy moments like Kind of Blue, with styles mixed with African percussion and the newest of syenthisizors of that time. This is accompanied by the great artwork (get those vinyl sleeves!) giving us a glimps of the atmospheres we can expect.

Side one has one big track written by Herbie calles the Sleeping Giant. From the classic percussions intro to the spacey fusion parts, all Jazz possibilties pass you buy. Great solo's of windinstruments, great touchy keys played by Herbie and ofcourse the syntlayers that make this work so special. Side two has three tracks written by Benny Maupin. His great contributions on the writing of the album and his great windplaying should have resulted in the sharing of this works title. Hancock and Mauping's Crossings would have been suitable. The second side is darker and more dissonant. The mellotron is one of the elements of main interest here, for it isn't used very often in Jazz.

In conclusion, after five spins already one my favourite fusion albums. The atmospheres are great, the compositions are perfect. The recording is the final star that shines here and makes this a five star record. Don't skip on this!

* Edited. At first I though this was a masterpiece that would grow on me, but in fact, it hasn't. I still think side one is very strong, but side two just doesn't do it for me. The music is very abstract so is it's to get attached to it. I've changed my rating to a four star rating. Still highly recommended though.

Report this review (#240652)
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Second Hancock album from Mwandishi Trilogy. If the first Trilogy work was unusual for it's time spacey psyhedelic mix of electronica,free jazz and brass,without structure and very amorphous in form, second album is much better organised.

Using similar components, Hancock build more rhythmic and more dynamic work. First LP side is just one extra-long composition ( Sleeping Giant, 24:48!). Cloud of electronic sounds is filled by african drumming , many rhythm changes and some brass in all possible combinations. Composition is so complex,rich in structures,rhythms and sounds, that should by named suite,what will be more correct. You have all the best of Hancock and psychedelic jazz fusion of early seventies right here!

The other LP side includes two more compositions. Both in similar key, rich in electronic sounds,keybords, many different african drummings and some bass lines, they completed album till full great work. Rare mix of unusual and dangerous components, as electronic effects,Mellotron,el piano, free jazz structures,african drumming, very free wind solos all in one, perfectly balanced .

Real gem for free form jazz fusion lovers, could be a bit dangerous for newcomers with more rock oriented background.

Report this review (#255355)
Posted Thursday, December 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I often have to fight my urge to get past unmet expectations and be able to appreciate what a band is putting forth. I slightly expected funky jazz, similar to Thrust or Headhunters, and when I didn't get it, I was initially put off a bit. That was a few years back, but I have now come to appreciate some--though perhaps not yet all--that Hancock and crew have achieved. It's not linear, it's not necessarily going anywhere, and it certainly doesn't structure each solo here and there, but I do enjoy it each time through, and new things jump out at me with each listen. The caveat is that I only put it on when I'm in the mood for something unstructured, which is not terrible often.

Sleeping Giant is the track that I get the most out of, perhaps simply because it remains upbeat for a longer time than the other two. I enjoy each section, from the percussion-heavy intro to the Coltrane-ian harmonies toward the end. I also learned new things, such as how different varieties of trombones sound (here I naively thought that there was only one kind of trombone!). I'm not sure that the sections are linked particularly well, but in fairness it doesn't seem to be the case that the band really attempted to do so.

The second side is much more atmospheric and searching, and it's hard to describe highlights as opposed to the experience, which is mellow, a bit spooky at times, but ultimately warm and relatively familiar.

I feel that I know jazz rock and fusion fairly well, but abstract jazz/fusion? Well, I think I'm still learning the ropes, such as how to manage expectations, how to figure out what the musicians are trying to do for me, as well as what I'm supposed to do myself to get the most out of the experience. Or maybe I shouldn't be trying at all. Either way, Crossings doesn't feel like a masterpiece to me, but that may change. Regardless, I do prefer this to other abstract jazz that I have heard, such as some of Miles' adventures.

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Posted Saturday, June 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Allow me to join in the unanimous praise bestowed on this album. Hancock's second album in the Mwandishi series is a masterpiece and easily one of the most imaginative fusion albums I've heard. Hancock's band plays an entirely different kind of fusion then the guitar and riff heavy rock of MO and RTF, instead Crossings further explores the free-jazz leanings of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, but the form is much more concise.

The keyboards play a big role on the album, not as a melodic instrument but as one providing texture and atmosphere. This is clear right from the start, Sleeping Giant starts with tribal percussion, jungle noises and spacey synth effects. Gradually, the bass and piano join and the music gets a more harmonious texture. The smart thing is that they balance out the experimental and atmospheric parts with some groovy and even funky sections. As such the piece is both challenging and catchy, which usually is makes for a very happy marriage.

The two remaining shorter piece are even more experimental and mesmerizing, Quasar features spacey synth noises and atmospheric free-jazz improvisations. Things often border on avant-garde and even early electronic music, invoking some vibe reminiscent of Tangerine Dream's Alpha Centauri. Water Torture continues the psych jazz vibe and ends with great cosmic mellotron sounds.

Crossings couldn't have had a more appropriate name, blowing up all existing boundaries between the free-jazz, funk, rock and electronic avant-garde. It's boundless music that can be mind-blowing as well as catchy. A much recommended listen.

Report this review (#288622)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The complex African rhythms, and the electronic sounds melt perfectly together like no other fusion album created before. Herbie was so important to jazz music (notice that I say WAS, because he has really lost it with his newer material) because his "electronic" music had so much personality and vitality, which is really quite rare for "electronic" music in general especially for music in its era. Unlike similar Herbie albums, such as Mwandishi, the music doesn't get stuck in the same loop rhythmically which is so hard to do, especially with songs that last upwards of 20 minutes.

I know that a lot of jazz fans (traditionalists), including Wynton Marsalis, would not consider fusion albums important to the history of jazz, because they incorporate all those newfangled noise devices, and because its too pandering to its audience, and because the rhythms are too straight and on and on and on. Personally I would agree with these purists that this kind of music isn't jazz, but it is simply the next step in the evolution of jazz (which sadly doesn't exist anymore.... oh wait, Kenny G is still making jazz albums that are so important to the evolution of shopping for jeans at jc penny's and sipping on sub par cups of coffee at your local starbucks.)... Sorry I digress.... my point is that Music is constantly evolving, and that labels change and evolve with it. I know it seem that music is dead, but give it some time folks I know that music will make a turn-around as soon as ignorant people who cannot appreciate music because it is simply not aesthetically pleasing to their sensitive glass ears learn to appreciate the values and the concepts of others. Sir. Marsalis sure knows his jazz, and he knows the history behind it (which I know sounds good, but in reality it is not), but he doesn't realize that music MUST evolve and that playing standards in not what music is all about. True that we must also not turn our backs on history, but we cannot rely on history to carry us into the future.... I ramble on.... Back to the Album.

Crossings is jazz music but not your grandpa's form of jazz. It relies on a slightly different language (or slang if you like) than traditionalist jazz. You will not be able to understand what your grandpa has to say, as he will not be able to understand what you are saying, but this doesn't mean that you both arent speaking english, you are both just speaking different dialect of the same language. The electronic sounds on crossings are introspective, energetic and beautiful all at the same time.

I listen to a lot of progressive music, and this album sounds as fresh as it did the first day I listened to it which is hard to do. This is because the album is so complex and visceral that it could be listened to thousands of times over again. I highly recommend this album, but listen to it with no distractions whatsoever if you want to truely understand the complex language contained within.

Thanks for reading (this is my first post)

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Posted Monday, January 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The reason I love Dün's Eros is that despite their avant garde approach (usually not quite my thing) they still played real music between the lines so to speak. And this is the same with Herbie Hancocks master piece actually. I mean, if avant garde leads to nonsense even I could play then I loose interest but when it's done with wonderfully created and executed melodies it's a whole different ball game.

The epical Sleeping Giant is a great example of what I mean. A great combination of inaccessible experimental music and real music (like the key part halfway). And when avant music is done like this I can really admire it and swallow the tough parts without problems. Masterpiece track indeed this Sleeping Giant. But same as Yes' Close to the Edge and (better example) Relayer the masterpiece status unfortunately had to be destroyed by the other two tracks, in this case Quasar and Water Torture.

No problem for the avant garde lovers, they probably digest these two tracks with huge appetite but (and I have no problem admitting this) these are not for me. And in the end they leave me with a pretty big problem for the ultimate album rating. For my personal taste it will go no higher than three stars I'm afraid (3,5 at best) but this is one of those albums you simply can't ignore and I feel I will have to take into account the significance for jazz, fusion and prog as well and then this is a true masterpiece. But I can't go as far as 5 stars so it will have to be right in between meaning four * ultimately.

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Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars Crossings is the middle album in Hancock's Mwandishi trilogy of albums. More experimental than the previous album Mwandishi but not as adventurous as the next album Sextant. This is the first Herbie album to feature the great artwork of Robert Springett; he will continue to do covers for Hancock throughout the decade. A major difference here compared to Mwandishi is the presence of Patrick Gleeson who added his Moog synthesizer to the album. Gleeson wanted to overdub some Moog over what the group had recorded. Herbie loved what he heard but apparentally other members of the Mwandishi line-up were not as enthusiastic. What the group originally recorded was African-influenced experimental jazz; with Gleeson's additions it became music from another time and space.

Hancock wrote the side-long "Sleeping Giant" while winds player Bernie Maupin wrote the other two tracks. That side-long track is supposed to be made up of 5 parts. It opens with African styled percussion along with spacey sounds from the Moog. Later on it goes into light jazz-rock. The music stops at one point and resumes as moody orchestral jazz. Eventually some fuzzed-up electric bass leads the group into a funky jam which briefly gets interrupted by some more orchestral jazz. Gets more traditional fusion sounding towards the end. Finishes with more orchestral jazz, at the very end is some cool spacey sounds.

"Quasar" opens with some spacey avant-jazz before going into more straight acoustic jazz territory (with the obligatory Moog sounds). Over halfway goes into orchestral jazz. You hear some percussion from "Sleeping Giant" at one point. This is the most loose and improvised piece on the album. My favourite track has always been the last one "Water Torture." After some Moog squiggles and random percussion it goes into an interesting rhythm on drums and percussion. Then Fender Rhodes and acoustic upright bass play in unison, sometimes joined by wind instruments. Later everything gets more free and loose sounding. Over halfway gets slightly more funky with the wah-wahed Rhodes. The Mellotron near the end is great; if you think the best Mellotron parts are all in Symphonic Prog, you would be wrong.

I've always thought of Sextant as the definitive artistic statement from Hancock, with his preceeding work leading up to it and his later work slowly going in the wrong direction. For me this album will always stand in the shadow of Sextant, although I can see why it's so loved and Sextant may be a turn-off to some people. I wish Hancock would have extended this period in his career but unfortunately it just didn't pay the bills. 4 stars.

Report this review (#480189)
Posted Sunday, July 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'Crossings' is a very busy album with tons of mad percussion and can safely be described as 'Acid Fusion Jazz'.

This is 'Hancock's last album with Warner Brothers'. Perhaps they got cold feet, unwilling to step into the early 70's madhouse that many bands found themselves immersed in at this time?

The massive 24 minute opener 'Sleeping Giant' sounds like it has been recorded in 'Timex' clock factory. Seemingly random speed percussion is interwoven with Herbie's excellent electric piano. I guess this is one of those albums you'll either love to bits or find intensely annoying. Personally I prefer the more experimental followup 'Sextant', but this is still pretty good fayre. Matters get more tuneful and ordered the longer it progresses but it does retain a certain 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' feel about it.

Quite a challenging album that can be tricky to find the right environment to play in. For example: don't take it to work if you use a computer and have to concentrate - you'll end up sticking your foot through your monitor in blind rage. Similarly, it's awful when trying to read a book. Guaranteed - you'll read the same line 4 times over trying to decipher its meaning.

I set out on this review with a definite 3 stars in mind, but listening to it with a fresh pair of ears leads me to an impressive 4. 'Hancock' was clearly an open minded musician in his day. For you 'proggers' out there, check this out and its prequel and sequel to discover some highly original music that stands proudly alone in his extensive catalogue.

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Posted Thursday, February 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Other of the very few jazz rock or jazz albums I have been listening to. But this is another good point for a progressive rock appreciator to be in touch with jazz music. IMHO, Crossings, or even Herbie Hancock is much closer to pure jazz music than prog; so if you really like it, you will naturally get yourself close to traditional jazz.

Giant Sleeping is the main epic here. It longs for almost 25 minutes, and demands like all kind of jazz music expertise from its player. But there are something new here, that cannot be found in pure jazz. The congas present here add a kind of latin flavour that can be found only southward from Rio Grande. The way bassist Buster Williams enters and mix with drums and percussion makes a rhythm session very far away from traditional jazz. During the song, some new riffs appears, while other presented before many of the times does not return back or are only slightly remembered, not developed again. These are the moments when we see Herbie not like a pure jazz man, but someone making music with a lot of pieces found in progressive rock. And this is really what jazz rock/fusion is about !

There is also two songs penned by Bennie Maupin, and they present characteristics listed above. I do like a lot the keys used to present the riff in Quasar, this is a clear example how you can add jazz and rock in a caldron and create something new, not only a simple mix of two different things. And this is also why it deserves five stars, it is a perfect combination of jazz and rock, it is flawless and probably would correspond to what Miles Davis had in his mind while he recorded Bitches Brew?

Report this review (#636597)
Posted Monday, February 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've recently decided to make an effort to branch out in my jazz listening and move out of my jazz-rock/fusion-focused comfort zone, and after a few listens it seems to me that Herbie Hancock's Crossings is a great album for people who want to do precisely that.

It very much approaches fusion from the jazz side of things; the fusion passages here are more or less in the tradition of In a Silent Way, and in fact I would count it as one of the few albums to really recapture the soft, floating atmosphere of that classic album. But on top of that, you get more than just fusion here; at points, for instance, the band step back, calm down, and shift into a more purely jazz mode, or shift gear into a more avant-garde format which at points (especially on Water Torture) verges on being downright menacing. It's certainly an album which demands and rewards multiple listens, and opens the door to a far wider range of jazz influences than many fusion pieces offer.

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Posted Monday, May 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars "Crossings" is an exploration of jazz fusion with some of the most compelling lengthy pieces composed for a Herbie Hancock album, by the Mwandishi band. There are only three tracks but all are captivating, beginning with the album side 'Sleeping Giant' with an intro of African tribal polyrhythmic percussion. It settles into a jazz groove that simmers along until the rhythm breaks and there is a brass passage of improvised elegance. A trumpet solo glows brightly as Hancock pours out keyboard liquid and there are some chilling African percussive vibes. Then a streetwise funkadelic beat crashes through, like the crime-jazz soundtrack of "Shaft", or a 70s "Dirty Harry" movie. It is little wonder that the man was called on to create soundtracks for 70s crime movies such as "Death Wish". Maupin's sax is absolutely masterful here, nothing compares to the way he makes that sax cry in pain. A killer track in any music connoisseur's collection.

Side two houses two Maupin-penned tracks, that are still consistent in excellence. 'Quasar' is first with some haunting flute and a transfixing bassline from Williams. The jazz dissonance is quite a compelling sound though very off kilter. It takes a while to gather momentum but the spacey streaks are quite uncanny. The cosmic fusion is augmented by angelic flute lines and low synth buzzes.

'Water Torture' is even more electronic and so delightfully different to the previous tracks. The dissonance of odd meters is created by alto sax trills, off beat basslines and keyboard improvisations. It sounds in places like the soundtrack of a crime movie again, bringing to mind sections of 70s scenes of Charles Bronson impending violence. This is a little too quirky for my tastes but it is okay to close the album with a different approach. At 7 minutes in I was longing for some kind of change in direction as the crime-jazz soundtrack was getting tiresome, but it continues in the same vein.

The album is definitely one of the all time greats in the world of Hancock, along with "Headhunters" and "Sextant". I am not a real fan of this style but I am having my ears opened lately with some cool jazz. From Hancock, I had only previously heard 'Rock-it' before this so it is nice to know the man is deserved of his massive reputation outside of that breakdance electro 80s era.

Report this review (#841788)
Posted Sunday, October 21, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Before hitting the jazz-funk jackpot with his seminal 'Head Hunters' album Herbie Hancock furrowed a distinctly cosmic path with a series of albums inspired the work of his mentor and friend Miles Davis. The release of both 'In A Silent Way' and 'Bitches Brew' helped break the burgeoning fusion moment originally started by Tony Williams Lifetime, and it allowed Hancock to truly experiment at the outer limits of the jazz genre, fusing elements of rock, funk, psychedelia and African rhythms into his bold new brand of cosmic jazz that adorned the albums 'Mwandishi' and 'Sextant'. Sandwiched in between those two was 'Crossings', the album that arguably best defined this period of Hancock's career, featuring a spacey vibe, plenty of haunting instrumental passages and some ghostly moments of tribal perCussion. Split over three tracks, 'Crossings' proves a fusion masterclass, a psychedelic jazz journey in the mould of Return To Forever's 'Where Have I Known You Before', 'The Inner Mounting Flame' by John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra or the quicksilver strains of Billy Cobham's 'Spectrum'. Alongside both those and Miles Davis 1969 to 1975 period recordings, 'Crossings' is one of the key jazz-rock / fusion albums, and those who take the time to appreciate Hancock's epic compositions will be thoroughly rewarded. A near classic. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
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Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Crossings is often described as one of the greatest Herbie Hancock's fusion albums, but it has failed to impress me .. matter of fact, I am considering throttling it back to 2 stars only.

The Side A is quite decent, but nothing to write home about - a couple jazz-rock/fusion bits here and there, diluted by some foggy experimental stuff of the "it fell where it got dropped it" kind.

The Side B didn't work out well for me at all. It certainly didn't sound anything like jazz. And I can't remember what it sounded like - for which lapse of memory I sincerely apologize to those who may read this review.

Perhaps, I should force myself to listen to the second part of the CD on my way to Walmart and back :)

Report this review (#918752)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
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.

Report this review (#1666601)
Posted Saturday, December 10, 2016 | Review Permalink

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