Like the sea itself, Maiden Voyage is vast and epic- flirting with adventure and myth. It is Herbie Hancock's tour de force- what the wonderous Speak No Evil was to his Blue Note peer, Wayne Shorter- ie. representing the composer/pianist at his imaginitive peak. We can only imagine what kind of zone Freddie Hubbard, George Coleman, Ron Carter and Tony Williams must have been during the recording of this masterpiece- so wonderfully coherent yet brimming with subtle musical conflict. And Hancock's playing is simply majestic.
The opening track is stunningly simple- you might feel a little uninspired by the low-key opening, but then, all of a sudden, it all opens out beautifully during the trumpet solo. This short flourish embodies the enitre tone of the album and indeed the majesty of the ocean in its sense of wonder and awe.
After the fast-and-furious Eye of the Hurricaine, Hancock, with Little One, reminds us of his ability to produce deeply complex and challenging, yet incredibly beautiful compositions. It's probably my favourite track of the album.
Survival of the Fittest recalls The Egg, from Empyrean Isles(Blue Note, 1964) in its open improvisational structure. The sense of conflict and frantic struggle is briliantly portrayed, and the listener is unsure of whether the music is hideous, or beautiful.
To round off, Herbie returns to laid-back territory with Dolphin Dance- fresh enough to clear our musical palette after what has preceded.
While the briliant playing ability of this wonderful quintet is unquestionable, for me, it's Herbie's writing that makes album what it is. Maiden Voyage works as more of a "Love Supreme-esq" suite, rather than an album of five separate tracks. Not always easily listenable, always completley compelling, music is rarely this powerful.