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Herbie Hancock - Thrust CD (album) cover

THRUST

Herbie Hancock

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.13 | 119 ratings

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TCat
5 stars After getting his feet wet, Herbie Hancock approached Miles Davis to join in one of his line-ups in 1963, and helped to build up his rhythm section at the time. The section he built up was a young one, but it turned out they were quite effective, and Hancock began his professional music career off of that experience. Almost immediately, he was in the public eye, and when he struck out as a solo artist for Blue Note Records a year later, he really had no problem getting his name and reputation out there. He worked with Miles Davis until 1968 and expanded his solo career at the same time. By 1969, he had built up his reputation enough to record under his own name, or under various project names.

In 1973, he formed The Headhunters, and soon released an album under that name. This new funky sound helped him expand his fan base by crossing over to pop genres. His mix of jazz, pop, r&b, soul and funk was present on this album and it turned out to be a big hit, thus spawning other albums.

The 2nd album under The Headhunters name was 'Thrust' released in 1974 and it continued the sound started with the successful and acclaimed 'Head Hunters' album. It also turned out to be a huge selling album and is still considered relevant and important today. It consists of 4 tracks spanning a total run time of 38 minutes.

'Palm Grease' starts by establishing a beat and is soon joined by percussion and a funky synth, adding some bass and later sax and keyboards playing the main hook together. The tenor sax later takes over improvising off of the main riff, with plenty of keys supporting and at times taking over the lead. The catchy rhythm and flashy percussion carries it all forward and make the sound very appealing and accessible, but Hancock hadn't totally let the simple theme carry his tracks yet, so there is still plenty of real jazz improvisation to keep things interesting.

Hancock's 1973 album was a soundtrack for the controversial movie 'The Spook Who Sat By the Door' which was also a highly acclaimed album. The next track on 'Thrust' which is called 'Actual Proof' was originally written for that soundtrack. This track is less funky, but still quite upbeat and driven more by jazz and to a lesser degree, r&b. A fast moving bass line drives the solo keyboards (Fender Rhodes electric piano) that highlight most of this track. The feel is much more progressive with some interesting competing meters between the improvisation and the rhythm section. This is not just a great example of Hancock's abilities on the electric piano, but is also an example of how he was able to make the rhythm section that supports improvisation much more interesting thus making the overall sound much more vibrant and dynamic. This style of having a complex rhythm section underneath the solo instrument was all started by Hancock when he worked with Miles Davis and is one of the things that made Hancock so important and popular in those days. This track doesn't really expand on other solo instrumentation until later in the 2nd half of the track when the alto flute gets a chance to show off a bit.

'Butterfly' is a much slower groove starting out featuring the bass clarinet and alto sax playing the main theme together. Of course, the rhythm section is allowed to mess around with their own riffs, and soon the sax takes over the improvisation with a sweet solo as things get a little funkier with the freedom that the bass has to make his part interesting, but the tempo staying moderate. The keys in this one pretty much holds everything together, but later, you get a solo from Hancock too, this time enhanced with some interesting sounding wind instruments. The interplay between the instruments makes this track interesting, and it stands out a lot more because of the slower tempo. There are also noticeable layers of different synths. This track would be used on the Headhunters live album 'Flood' which would be released in 1975. After Hancock gets to show off his toys and his talent, the theme returns as at the first after the 9 minute mark.

'Spank-a-Lee' goes back to the fast funky groove similar to the first track but with some really cool effects furnished by both Hancock and the one man brass section Bernie Maupin. That man is another extremely well talented musician and it is easy to see why Hancock used his talents a lot, even prior to forming The Headhunters. He layers some of his instruments to make some interesting sounds and contrasts through the album, but they really stand out here, and go so well with Hancock's style. After a while, the sax breaks out of the fray with another nice solo. Hancock knew he had a top notch musician there and it is great he would allow him to show off also, but also gives more variety to the music. They always complimented each other so well. As the track goes on, the sax gets to get quite wild at places carrying things to crazy heights and then reigning himself back in. Later, the rhythm gets more responsive to the improvisation and the bands interaction shines through. This is a perfect track to end a perfect album.

No doubt that this is one of Hancock's best, and it is deserving of that. The best part is how the amazing line-up works so well together. Alas, Hancock would eventually move away to a more pop oriented sound, while the Headhunters would continue for a little while without him. But, at least we ended up with at least four great albums with this band. This is definitely a jazz fusion masterpiece and really proves what an excellent artist Hancock was when he was producing his best and most relevant albums. Nothing on this album sound dated, it could have been recorded yesterday. What is interesting though is how Hancock's pop oriented albums that came later do sound outdated. But, before all that happens, we have some excellent performances that stand the test of time much better.

TCat | 5/5 |

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