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HERBIE HANCOCK

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Herbie Hancock biography
Herbert Jeffrey "Herbie" Hancock - Born April 12, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois, USA

With a career that covers half of the 20th Century, and shows no sign of slowing down as we move further into the 21st, Herbie Hancock is one of the major music figures of our time. Within the world of progressive jazz/rock fusion he is topped only by Miles Davis when it comes to musical vision, but a bit ahead of Miles and all the rest when it comes to composition and soloing ability. Within the broader world of jazz music in general, his innovations on the piano place him in an elite group that includes Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Theolonius Monk, Bill Evans, Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra. Herbie's piano playing brings together many influences including French impressionism and neo-classicism, Bill Evan's soft touch, Horace Silver's hard bop, McCoy Tyner's quartal voicings and Bud Powell's fast single note lines, and creates a personal style that is instantly recognizable even if you only hear him play one or two notes.

Herbie was born in 1940 and by the age of eleven was performing Mozart's Concerto in D Major in a children's concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. When he was 20 Art Blakey picked him to join his Jazz Messengers. While with Blakey, Hancock learned how to play a mixture of RnB and jazz known as hard bop, a style that would later become the foundation for jazz fusion. Three years later Herbie was asked to join Miles' new quintet. During this time with Miles, Herbie, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams developed a totally new and unique way to play behind soloists. Disregarding the more conservative approach of their predecessors, these three didn't just keep time, instead they played with the rhythm and harmony in restless and constantly inventive ways. It was during this time that Herbie developed his unique comping style that combines French neo-classical harmonies with syncopated rhythms and African derived single note lines played in octaves. While with Miles, Herbie also put out several solo albums including some, such as 'Speak Like a Child', that include Herbie's arrangements for small jazz orchestras. His unique scoring for instrumental ensembles reveal the expected French influences, as well as an influence from Gil Evans' orchestrations for Miles Davis. These laid-back and impressionistic albums sound like cool future lounge music for the ultra hipster of tomorrow.

In 1971 Hancock formed his Sextet, an ultra-progress...
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Head HuntersHead Hunters
Reissued · Remastered
Columbia / Legacy 1997
$5.39
$2.54 (used)
5 Original Albums [5 CD]5 Original Albums [5 CD]
Blue Note 2018
$10.92
$9.92 (used)
Maiden VoyageMaiden Voyage
Reissued · Remastered
Blue Note 1999
$5.17
$2.99 (used)
Empyrean IslesEmpyrean Isles
Reissued · Remastered
Blue Note 1999
$5.17
$4.73 (used)
River: The Joni Letters [2 CD]River: The Joni Letters [2 CD]
Verve 2017
$15.92
$13.00 (used)
Gershwin's World [SACD Hybrid]Gershwin's World [SACD Hybrid]
Hybrid SACD - DSD
Verve 2004
$14.48
$11.71 (used)
Man-ChildMan-Child
Sony Bmg Europe 2000
$5.34
$7.00 (used)
The Essential Herbie HancockThe Essential Herbie Hancock
Remastered
Sony Legacy 2006
$8.10
$3.46 (used)
PossibilitiesPossibilities
Warner P&D 2005
$20.79
$1.51 (used)
ThrustThrust
Legacy 2011
$3.71
$5.36 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
HERBIE HANCOCK-MWANDISHI-JAPAN SHM-CD C15 USD $15.99 Buy It Now 14m 47s
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Herbie Hancock Dis Is Da Drum Promo Cassette Tape 1994 Jazz Hip Hop USD $14.99 Buy It Now 6h 59m
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9h 30m
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The Best of Blue Note CD 1994 Charlie Parker Herbie Hancock Miles Davis Rocker USD $1.91 [0 bids]
11h 41m
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Inventions & Dimensions by Herbie Hancock (CD, Jan-1989, Blue Note (Label)) USD $0.99 [1 bids]
14h 3m
Herbie Hancock Maiden Voyage, Sextant, and Thrust Vinyl Records USD $60.00 Buy It Now 14h 4m
Herbie Hancock A Night With vinyl LP 1980 Manhattan Records UK stereo USD $20.00 Buy It Now 14h 5m
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14h 43m
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Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters CD 2007 Verve US Jazz Pianist USD $8.70 Buy It Now 16h 35m
MILES DAVIS - MILES IN TOKYO. JAPAN.OBI.MINI-LP SLEEVE.HERBIE HANCOCK USD $6.99 [1 bids]
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Herbie Hancock Go For It 12" vinyl single record (Maxi) UK SCBS128362 CBS 1980 USD $13.99 Buy It Now 16h 46m
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Herbie Hancock Rockit - Injection UK 7" vinyl single record A3577 CBS 1983 USD $12.71 Buy It Now 17h 4m
Herbie Hancock Future Shock 12" vinyl single record (Maxi) UK TA4075 CBS 1983 USD $15.28 Buy It Now 17h 9m
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HERBIE HANCOCK Speak Like A Child LP BLUE NOTE BST 84279 US 1968 RVG LIBERTY USD $43.11 Buy It Now 17h 12m
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Herbie Hancock Tell Me 12" vinyl single record (Maxi) UK 12-7229 CBS 1979 USD $15.28 Buy It Now 17h 40m
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HERBIE HANCOCK discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

HERBIE HANCOCK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.84 | 45 ratings
Takin' Off
1962
3.39 | 19 ratings
My Point of View
1963
3.96 | 32 ratings
Inventions And Dimensions [Aka: Succotash]
1964
3.83 | 58 ratings
Empyrean Isles
1964
4.23 | 193 ratings
Maiden Voyage
1965
3.03 | 17 ratings
Blow-Up (OST)
1966
4.24 | 41 ratings
Speak Like A Child
1968
3.61 | 33 ratings
The Prisoner
1969
3.68 | 34 ratings
Fat Albert Rotunda
1969
3.20 | 11 ratings
Jammin' With Herbie [Aka: Rock Your Soul; Voyager]
1970
4.09 | 76 ratings
Mwandishi
1971
4.23 | 288 ratings
Crossings
1972
4.13 | 176 ratings
Sextant
1973
3.97 | 12 ratings
The Spook Who Sat By The Door (OST)
1973
3.89 | 210 ratings
The Herbie Hancock Group: Head Hunters
1973
4.06 | 106 ratings
Thrust
1974
3.89 | 25 ratings
Death Wish (OST)
1974
3.57 | 58 ratings
Man-Child
1975
3.06 | 36 ratings
Secrets
1976
3.09 | 13 ratings
The Herbie Hancock Trio
1977
2.85 | 15 ratings
Directstep
1978
2.65 | 29 ratings
Sunlight
1978
1.62 | 18 ratings
Feets Don't Fail Me Now
1979
3.52 | 14 ratings
The Piano
1979
2.14 | 16 ratings
Monster
1980
3.30 | 33 ratings
Mr. Hands
1980
3.31 | 13 ratings
Herbie Hancock Trio - With Ron Carter + Tony Williams
1981
2.00 | 11 ratings
Magic Windows
1981
1.80 | 10 ratings
Lite Me Up
1982
2.74 | 42 ratings
Future Shock
1983
3.00 | 16 ratings
Sound-System
1984
4.04 | 7 ratings
Herbie Hancock & Foday Musa Suso: Village Life
1985
2.98 | 8 ratings
Round Midnight (OST)
1986
1.91 | 13 ratings
Perfect Machine
1988
3.08 | 14 ratings
Dis Is Da Drum
1994
3.20 | 11 ratings
Herbie Hancock, W. Shorter, R. Carter, W. Roney & T. Williams: A Tribute To Miles
1994
3.04 | 17 ratings
The New Standard
1995
3.90 | 12 ratings
Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter: 1+1
1997
3.76 | 19 ratings
Gershwin's World
1998
2.10 | 13 ratings
Future 2 Future
2001
1.74 | 10 ratings
Possibilities
2005
3.97 | 15 ratings
River - The Joni Letters
2007
3.08 | 17 ratings
The Imagine Project
2010

HERBIE HANCOCK Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.50 | 4 ratings
Hear, O Israel
1968
3.00 | 3 ratings
In Concert, Vol. 2 (with Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, Jack DeJohnette, Ron Carter and Eric Gale)
1973
2.21 | 5 ratings
Dedication
1974
3.19 | 20 ratings
Flood
1975
4.03 | 12 ratings
V.S.O.P.
1977
4.09 | 15 ratings
V.S.O.P.: The Quintet
1977
4.67 | 6 ratings
V.S.O.P.: Tempest in the Colosseum
1977
3.15 | 7 ratings
An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea
1978
4.08 | 7 ratings
V.S.O.P.: Live Under the Sky
1979
4.00 | 4 ratings
CoreaHancock
1979
3.13 | 5 ratings
Herbie Hancock Quartet
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
One Night With Blue Note, Volume 1 (with Bobby Hutcherson / James Newton)
1985
3.00 | 1 ratings
Jazz Africa (with Foday Musa Suso)
1986
3.00 | 1 ratings
Day Dreams
2002
4.00 | 4 ratings
Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live: Detroit/Chicago
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Omaha Civic Auditorium 17th November 1975
2015

HERBIE HANCOCK Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Future2Future Live
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Watermelon Man
2005
0.00 | 0 ratings
Herbie Hancock & the New Standard Allstars in Japan
2008

HERBIE HANCOCK Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of Herbie Hancock
1971
0.00 | 0 ratings
Treasure Chest
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kawaida (with Don Cherry)
1975
3.00 | 1 ratings
Herbie Hancock
1975
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Best Of Herbie Hancock
1979
5.00 | 2 ratings
Live Under the Sky
1981
3.95 | 2 ratings
The Essential Herbie Hancock
1986
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best of Herbie Hancock
1988
2.91 | 2 ratings
the Very best Of Herbie hancock
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Quartet Live
1994
4.60 | 5 ratings
Cantaloupe Island
1994
4.07 | 8 ratings
Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Blow Up Extra-Sessions
1995
2.00 | 1 ratings
Then & Now: The Definitive Herbie Hancock
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Late Night Jazz Favorites
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Watermelon Man The Ultimate Hancock!
2010

HERBIE HANCOCK Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Watermelon Man / Three Bags Full
1962
2.00 | 5 ratings
Rockit
1983

HERBIE HANCOCK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Mwandishi by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.09 | 76 ratings

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Mwandishi
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars The 60s was a busy time for child prodigy HERBIE HANCOCK. After getting his feet wet in the jazz world with Donald Byrd, it took him no time at all to be noticed by the greatest bigwigs in the industry. Miles Davis, arguably one of the greatest jazz talents ever to have roamed the planet, snatched HANCOCK up at the tender age of 23 and placed him as a major part of his Second Great Quintet. HANCOCK remained with Davis throughout the decade and although he was catering to Davis' every musical whim, was carefully taking cues in many ways and soaking in his masterful tutelage like a sponge. Despite having released a great number of albums during his stint as keyboardist-in-chief on such classic albums ranging from "Seven Steps To Heaven" all the way to "In A Silent Way," HANCOCK himself hadn't really come of age on his own until he got to his "Fat Albert Rotunda" album where he seemed to have found his inner voice and took his own path down jazz-funk-fusion alley.

Despite having found his way, he hadn't quite found his identity, a plight that many African-Americans have faced across many the ages having no lineage records from where exactly their DNA had emerged but rather adapting to the strange new land in which they were brought generations ago. Around the late 60s, HANCOCK was also coming of age as an individual after having conquered the musical arenas a decade prior. This is the period when he adopted a Swahili alter-ego named MWANDISHI, a concept that blossomed like African violets after a series of gentle nourishing rain showers until the idea for a new musical direction became eminent. Once the great MWANDISHI was unleashed, there was no stopping him and no looking back. What became a new identity fruitfully gelled into an entire trilogy of musical innovation that to this very day remains some of HANCOCK's most mesmerizing and complex musical output of his entire career.

After shedding his "Watermelon Man" persona which he had worn since his debut "Takin' Off," HANCOCK changed gears from the Saturday morning cartoon subject matter of "Fat Albert Rotunda" and transmogrified into a deep contemplative form of spiritual jazz that took the listener along for the ride of HANCOCK's own inner journey into the unknown and beyond. However to pull this miraculous metamorphosis off convincingly HANCOCK reconfigured his entire band make-up with all new members with the only returning member Buster Williams donning the new persona Mchaezaji. Likewise, the new set of six musicians would also adopt names from their respective lineages. While most were of African descent, Nicaraguan conga and timbale member Jose Areas would become Chepito and the appearance by Ronnie Monstrose stayed in his already Euro-penned appellation.

The first album of the trilogy is logically titled MWANDISHI with an album cover of a self-reflecting (inner and outer) HANCOCK in chromatic aberration pondering the existential quandaries of the universe. The album contained three lengthy tracks that focused on free form collective improvisation that utilized extremely complex and unusual time signatures with a particular emphasis on HANCOCK's unique Fender Rhodes piano playing which continued the ties from the most experimental Miles Davis albums of the era, however despite the obvious ties to the world of Davis, HANCOCK makes MWANDISHI his own in every way, shape and irregularly laid out form. This would become a trend that would only magnify on the subsequent "Crossings" and "Sextant" albums. As HANCOCK himself stated "So much of Africa has been squeezed out of black America, and we're taking a look at ourselves and recognizing our heritage."

And with that emphasis on self-reflection, the very first track "Ostinato (Suite For Angela)" is dedicated to Angela Davis and provides the most percussive and easily digestible track on the album with a strong ostinato bass groove providing the backbone for a series of unusual time signature deviations. The track in its conga rich and percussively prominent domain delves into bizarre mixes of 15/4 meters followed by 4/4, 7/8 every other variation in, between and around. This is the only track to feature both Chepito and Ronnie Montrose on guitar. Despite the free form jams into extreme complexity, the track flows as smooth as silk. The second track "You'll Know When You Get There" is more of a divine heavenly journey into the ethers and into the clouds. While the track is over ten minutes in length, it is followed by the similarly sounding 21 plus minute "Wandering Spirit Song." Both tracks emphasize more free form approaches with less rhythmic structure and more ethereal floatiness. They display HANCOCK's mastery of extensive use of tension and release where the tensions build slowly as the instrumentation increases only to find resolution with HANCOCK's use of sustained synthesized chords. In some ways, this album reminds me of some of the post-rock of the 21st century in how it provides a blueprint for that style.

MWANDISHI was the album that proved HERBIE HANCOCK was one of the true originals in the entire jazz-fusion scene of the early 70s. The concepts, musical compositional approach and instrumentation were strange new amalgamations of musical creativity unheard before and carried out with the most free form precision outside of the alien world of Sun Ra. After hearing the more dynamic following albums "Crossings" and "Sextant" it may be hard to appreciate the genius of this first installment in the MWANDISHI trilogy in the context of its era, but it is not too difficult for the attentive listener to pick out the subtle details which makes the album stand out amongst the crowd of its day. While personally MWANDISHI may be my least favorite chapter in the trilogy, it is nevertheless an essential prerequisite for appreciating the long lasting jazz-fusion that HANCOCK would pump out that led to his more funkified "Headhunters" days. Not only a landmark of jazz-fusion history but an intricately gorgeous album in all its free form glory. The beauty of MWANDISHI is that it does not discard HANCOCK's past but rather incorporates the many chapters of his musical career and pushes them into entirely fresh musical arenas.

 Crossings by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.23 | 288 ratings

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Crossings
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by 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.

 Sextant by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.13 | 176 ratings

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Sextant
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

4 stars The finale of the Mwandishi trilogy, Herbie Hancock and crew find themselves the most immersed in their exploratory African soundscapes as ever, and give one last artistic hoorah before the more commercial "Head Hunters" follow-up album.

This album truly is one of a kind. A more avant-garde jazz album, this is certainly not a "progressive rock" album, but it is undoubtedly a progressive album. Heavily influenced by African rhythms, "Sextant" creates some of the most delightfully abstract jazz put to record. There is very little discernible melody to be noted, but who cares? There are more than enough prog-by-numbers symphonic albums out there if that's what you're looking for. This album is a unique sonic collage, and an artistic tour de force. With that in mind, "Sextant" is best listened to hypnotically, simply following the grooves and letting the sounds passively take you away to places you didn't even know existed.

The album's first side is the highlight for me, although the magic permeates through all 3 extended compositions. "Rain Dance" dabbles into early electronic music and sets the album's tone very nicely: futuristic and cosmic, yet earthy and organic, paradoxically intertwined in a vast astral plane. The album cover gives a pretty good impression of the sorts of vistas you can expect to lie on these unbeaten paths. "Hidden Shadows", perhaps the most accessible piece on the record, continues the journey while building off of an almost funk-like beat. This one is a favourite of mine. The second side, which consists of the 19+ minute long "Hornets", is a bit more of an acquired taste. While the grooves on side one were relatively easy to get caught up in, "Hornets", as the name suggests, is spiny and abrasive with its dissonance. Although not immediately inviting, repeated listens should put you in the right sort of mood to appreciate its own distinct take on the "Sextant" sound.

This is no doubt an album of great artistic merit, and one that all jazz fans and fans of avant-garde music should invest in. At first I had reservations about "Hornets", but over time I have come to appreciate its own blend of organic grooves as well. In all, "Sextant" is an excellent album, even if not a strictly prog one: 4 stars.

 Dis Is Da Drum by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.08 | 14 ratings

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Dis Is Da Drum
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars I cannot fathom that there would be any question that HERBIE HANCOCK has been amongst the crème de le crème of fusionists that the jazz world has ever experienced. Right from the very start of his early career this keyboardist extraordinaire was chomping at the bit to break free from the standard post-bop of the day by incorporating hitherto unheard of techniques into the jazz world such as orchestral accompaniments, inventive new ways of expressing simple chords and ways of incorporating non-jazz elements seamlessly into the genre which eventually entered him access into the musical world of Miles Davis and beyond. In the 70s HANCOCK really took off with this innovation with "Mwandishi" trilogy, the funk jazz of "Headhunters" and the jazz-inflicted electro- funk of albums like "Future Shock" in the 80s. Never being one to rest on his laurels the 90s proved to be yet another period of adventurous experimentation with hip-hop and dance music that after simmering for a decade on the world's dance floors eventually got the label "acid jazz."

With HERBIE's ambition to leave no viable rhythmic stones unturned he headed into the studio with a huge eclectic crew of musicians and producers from both the past and modern day to create one of his most accessible and unusual albums (for him) yet - DIS IS DA DRUM, an album that tackles the 90s hip-hop rhythms, 80s dance floor grooves and jazz history of the past. Of course, HERBIE effortlessly melds all of the above together in the most pleasant of ways creating the perfect jazz meets dance floor album that keeps the dance floor sensibilities intact while fortifying them with his lush keyboard solos, sampling loops, jazz instruments like sax and trumpet while incorporating ethnic African instruments ranging from the djembe, bata, conga dunun, shekere, cabasa all the while keeping it sewn together with the state of art production technology the era had to offer.

While i have to admit that this was not what i expected upon first listen, i remained open minded and found it took a few spins to sink in. While not exactly difficult to absorb upon listen number one, it can be a slap in the face for any jazz purists who are expecting the usual syncopation as usual or the complexities of post-bop or 70s fusion. This is a feel good album that treats the listener to steady dance floor / hip hop beats while letting the jazz-fusion feast play second fiddle while retaining its consistency and danceable rhythms that dominate DIS IS DA DRUM. No fear for those who crave the complexibtilies of jazz. They are there but simply contributing a behind-the-scenes approach where they ooze out now and again to remind you that this is indeed a HERBIE HANCOCK album and his high standards insure us that he has the knack for choosing the best of the best to help fulfill his vision of this unique musical expression.

DIS IS DA DRUM is often described as the perfect party jazz album and that is a statement that i am totally on board with. This is indeed a nice cocktail lounge cornucopia of sounds that works so well as background music but with enough savoir-faire to please jazz musicians who are keen to notice all the details. While this certainly will never rank amongst the top achievements that HERBIE HANCOCK has contributed to the world of music in general, this remains a nice little supplemental feast of sounds for those who wish to delve beyond the classics and into the more eccentric little adventures that HANCOCK has embarked upon. Generally speaking this album starts out very strong but seems to diminish its effect as it progresses due to the fact that the incessant monobeats do steal the thunder of it being a totally outstanding album. Still though, not a bad listen in the least.

3.5 rounded down

 The Essential Herbie Hancock by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1986
3.95 | 2 ratings

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The Essential Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I have long had an intention to listen to Herbie Hancock's most progressive fusion albums from the 70's. Also in general I haven't yet formed a closer picture of the large discography of the legandary American jazz keyboardist, but this 2-CD compilation served as a good basic introduction a couple of years ago. It covers the years from 1962 to 1996 (the CD was released in 2006). I had made myself a "best of the best" single disc of it, and after listening to it this morning with great pleasure I thought to write the first review here.

I'm fond of jazz (favouring more recent stuff, vocal jazz and fusion included) but I'm not an expert in the genre's historical phases. When I listen to a canonised classic jazz musician it's not so important for me to fully ackowledge the musician's place in the genre development. One of Hancock's achievements is the vast diversity, including the aforementioned progressive fusion, hip hop and other danceable styles. Some of his music perhaps goes too much into territories not very pleasant to us prog listeners.

The opening tracks 'Watermelon Man' and 'Round Midnight' (the latter being an overplayed jazz standard, not written by Hancock or even associated to him especially) didn't make it to my own CD, but starting from 'Cantaloupe Island' from his perhaps first masterpiece album Maiden Voyage (1965) the music feels timeless, not worn-out in the least bit. The title track of that album is wonderful, nearly 8-minute composition with plenty of progressivity. The music has intelligence and passion in perfect balance, as well as groove and melody. Side by side with Hancock's piano the leading role is given to e.g. reed instruments, such as Freddie Hubbard's cornet/trumpet.

The late 60's collaborations with MILES DAVIS are also represented, but not the electric fusion side of it. Finishing the first disc, 'Joanna's Theme' is taken from the Death Wish soundtrack (1974). It's really good to have the music in chronological order, so the compilation gives an overall picture of Hancock's different phases. Disc Two wanders from acoustic piano trio stuff to fusion and to the futuristic electricity of 'Rockit'. The New Standard (1996) was an album that covered e.g. Peter Gabriel ('Mercy Street'), Simon & Garfunkel, Prince and Sade. Here it's represented by HH's own tune 'Manhattan'.

There's no doubt that connoisseurs would have much to argue about what's included and what's not, not to speak about the inability to pack the whole respectable career in just two discs, but even with an emphasis on well known tracks this is more than a decent compilation, and a very functionable introduction.

 Takin' Off by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1962
3.84 | 45 ratings

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Takin' Off
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars After performing on one album with the Pepper Adams & Donald Byrd Quintet, HERBIE HANCOCK wasted no time TAKIN' OFF into the limelight with his first solo release. Although this is basically a continuation of the hard bop found on the quintet's album, HERBIE is allowed to blossom here and he really stands out amongst the crowds of other hard boppers of the day. His signature piano playing isn't quite as funk-tinged as it would become in the 70s but it is already here gestating in this more traditional take on the contemporary jazz with top notch musicians to back him up. The duo horn section of Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon with bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins prove that HERBIE HANCOCK was ready for prime time and luckily for him success came almost instantly.

The album kicks off with "Watermelon Man" which may sound familiar because it's the same tune that was re-recorded for his jazz n' funkfest album "Headhunters" which like this debut upped his stardom another few notches. This first version is a standard jazz bop affair with a nice and easy delivery going on. Fans of HERBIE's later jazz-fusion work may not be impressed with this album since this is a HERBIE HANCOCK going with the flow of the contemporary music scene but he does it with such panache and confidence that it is an excellent album that shows the promise of the diversifying sounds he would later embrace. I prefer the more upbeat songs myself and find the slower ballads less interesting, however the strong tracks alone make this more than a worthy listening experience for pure jazz lovers.

 Jammin' With Herbie [Aka: Rock Your Soul; Voyager] by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.20 | 11 ratings

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Jammin' With Herbie [Aka: Rock Your Soul; Voyager]
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars This album was originally released in 1961 and HERBIE HANCOCK debuts to the recording world on it but it was released under the name PEPPER ADAMS AND DONALD BYRD QUINTET - Out Of This World.

This album not only exhibits the cumbersome band names and titles of jazz albums throughout recording history but also is the perfect example of how a few recorded tracks that went virtually unheard at the time of release would go on to be repackaged, renamed under not only totally different track names and sequential order but also by completely different composers and artists! This album would have probably been a total obscurity in history had it not been for the the fact that it is the very first recording to feature HERBIE HANCOCK.

Let me list all the differences simply as a place to sort out the dizzying variations.

Those released under the artist name

PEPPER ADAMS & DONALD BYRD QUINTET

Original release:

album: Out Of This World

released in 1961 as Warwick W 2041

tracks:

1. Curro's

2. It's a Beautiful Evening

3. Mr. Lucky Theme

4. Bird House

5. Day Dreams

Second version:

album: Out Of This World Vol 2

released in 1988 as Warwick 2041 - 2

tracks:

1. I'm An Old Cowhand (Unreleased)

2. Day Dreams (alt. take)

3. Out Of This World (alt. take)

4. Mr. Lucky (alt. take)

5. Curro's (alt. take)

6. Byrd House (alt. Take)

Third version:

album: Out Of This World: The Complete Warwick Sessions

released in 2010 on CD

tracks:

1. Byrd House

2. Mr. Lucky

3. Day Dreams

4. I'm An Old Cowhand

5. Curro's

6. It's A Beautiful Evening

7. Out Of This World

Many of these tracks have also been released and put together in many ways as HERBIE HANCOCK album compilations as well. These album titles include:

Voyager

Jammin'(with Herbie)

Hancock!

And

ROCK YOUR SOUL, which is technically a 2007 compilation of versions of these tracks

They have been renamed as they've been repackaged:

1. Jammin' With Herbie = Curro's

2. Herbie's Blues = Bird House

3. Rock Your Soul = Mr. Lucky

4. T.C.B. With Herbie = Out Of This World

5. Soul Power = Day Dreams

6. Cat Call = I'm An Old Cowhand

Note that "It's A Beautiful Evening" is missing from this release

After all that, let me get to the music. Well what we get here is some nice pleasant hard bop fairly standard from the period. Nothing extraordinary yet nothing horrible either. It is interesting to hear the very first recording from HERBIE HANCOCK where he simply accompanies the band and even though you can hear a trace of his jazz funk sound that would evolve into more interesting creations, I don't think this is an essential recording by any means. His piano playing pretty much continues on his very first album "Takin' Off" where it has improved. I guess I would pick this up at a very reduced price but don't lose any sleep if you can't find it. One of those collector's items and a good example of how poorly some earlier jazz albums were re-released over the decades, which makes it extremely confusing.

 Empyrean Isles by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1964
3.83 | 58 ratings

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Empyrean Isles
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Empyrean Isles is a soft, gentle jazz album which offers few hints of the funk-fusion departures that would litter Herbie Hancock's later career (though Cantaloupe Island does have a little funk in its step). Aside from Herbie's piano, Freddie Hubbard is the major soloist here, with excellent cornet work which Herbie is wise enough to allow to take centre stage whenever the spirit's on Hubbard. Capturing the transformation from hard bop to post-bop, Empyrean Isles carries about it a strange, mysterious air which is perfectly captured by the otherworldly cover photo. Alfred Lion and Ruby van Gelder get the absolute best out of the band's sound too.
 Mwandishi by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.09 | 76 ratings

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Mwandishi
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

5 stars When one speaks of Fusion, a select group instantly spring to minds. Miles Davis, Ian Carr & Nucleus, Return To Forever, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham, and of course, Herbie Hancock. A beautifully-balanced pianist with exceptional talent, Hancock started issuing records around the same time as The Beatles(his first was 1962's 'Takin' Off') whilst also playing with the likes of Miles Davis and Chick Corea as a sideman and soloist. His first album of note was the coolly atonal 'Maiden Voyage', issued by Blue Note in 1965, but his first forays into fusion-style jazz appeared on 1968's funk-dipped 'Speak Like A Child'. From here on both the quality and experimental nature of Hancock's work began to increase, and the late-sixties transitional albums 'The Prisoner' and 'Fat Albert Rotunda' showcased some scintillating work from Hancock and his team. These last two albums blended spacey fusion histrionics and trad-jazz elements, the old melded with the new, yet were still rooted in the classical textures of the genre's past. As the sixties faded and the seventies began, however, Hancock would unveil 'Mwandishi', his first first full-blown fusion epic. The opening act of a trilogy of classic Hancock fusion albums, 1970's 'Mwandishi' is arguably the pick of the three, a visceral, highly-charged and exhilarating sonic odyssey that takes the listener deep into the musical galaxy of jazz-fusion. This journey is continued on the equally-as- brilliant 'Crossings'(1971) and also on the densely-concocted 'Sextant', yet the failure of the latter would see Hancock quickly abandon his atmospheric fusion style in favour of straight-up jazz-funk, issuing the seminal 1973 album 'Head Hunters', an album that would provide Hancock's breakthrough into the international musical arena. However, despite the lack of commercial success gleaned by 'Sextant' - a strange and difficult album - the fusion -era albums of Herbie Hancock have lasted the years well, still sounding as fresh and vital as they did during the early-seventies. All three are highly-recommended to those wishing to explore jazz-rock, though in this writer's mind 'Mwandishi' is the real masterpiece. Enjoy.
 The Herbie Hancock Group: Head Hunters by HANCOCK, HERBIE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.89 | 210 ratings

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The Herbie Hancock Group: Head Hunters
Herbie Hancock Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Progfan97402
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Herbie Hancock retooled the musical direction he headed for Head Hunters, realizing that people weren't buying his Mwandishi-era albums (I'm sure the same reason a fan of later Tangerine Dream is likely to be scared off of Zeit). It's those albums were a bit over the heads of mainstream listeners. Look, Mwandishi, Crossings, and Sextant were hardly made for mainstream listeners, and since my tastes are not exactly mainstream, I have no problem with these albums and really enjoy them a lot. Hancock simply formed a new band, although retaining Bennie Maupin from the old lineup.

It's nice to see Herbie Hancock did not dumb down his music to reach a wider audience, although Head Hunters is an admittedly more accessible, but instead of doing something overly mainstream, he adopts a funk approach. Certainly funky tendencies showed up on Sextant, particularly on "Hornets" with the funky blaxploitation-type drumming and clavinet, but it often veered on the avant garde. "Chameleon" is the most recognized song on this album and you can imagine tons of rap DJs sampling this song. There's this wonderful funky approach as well as more fusion-oriented passages. He then totally does a drastic remake of "Watermelon Man". If you've heard the 1962 original, with the piano and horns, you can't deny how catchy it is. I even find this song enjoyable even though I was never a fan of his Blue Note-era albums (I couldn't get into them, but I can see many jazz fans would enjoy them so I don't bother reviewing them since they're perfectly good albums I am unable to connect with). This 1973 remake is drastically different with odd Africal rhythms and strange whistle or bottle sounds, and the music updated for electric piano and clavinet. You might have to listen to this several times to notice that the familiar theme does creep up, it's certainly not in that straightforward piano and horn-dominated style of the original. Fusion fans are really going to be blown away with "Sly", an obvious tribute to Sly & the Family Stone. The band really gets into a really intense jam, but the funk influences Hancock has adopted for this album are ever present. "Vein Melter" is the closing piece and the closest to the previous sound you'll get, in fact Bennie Maupin's sax playing was more in lines with what was heard in Crossings. Going for this more accessible funk-influenced fusion certainly helped Herbie Hancock big time. It definitely prevented him from being dropped from Columbia Records (I'm certain had he recorded another album like Sextant, Columbia would have likely dropped him). I really find nothing to fault Head Hunters, it's very much a classic, and it did not require many listens to be amazed by it either!

Thanks to Easy Money for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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