This has been a desert island disc for me for as long as I can remember. Can you call this jazz? Can you even call it music? It's something that feels like a whole lot more. This music teems with life, people, thought, emotion, creativity, joy, and insane energy like no jazz I've ever heard before or since. And Ron Carter flat out rocks the bottom out of it on acoustic bass. Give these guys a nobel.
The two selections that always kill me are "Jessica" and the hard rocking "Lawra". Jessica features a beautiful arrangement: the bass plays the lovely and poignant melody solo, accompanied by rich, dissonant, single note arpeggios from Hancock which lay out the complex terrain the soloists will then negotiate. Later, the bass is doubled by the trumpet which refines the texture even more.
The same group did a poignant and deeply beautiful version of Maiden Voyage on another live album called "VSOP" but that recording exists only on vinyl. Still the live version of Maiden Voyage is available on some compilation CD. Get it and live well!
This jazz is not a set of solos with other instrumentalists passively watching. Hancock, the Socrates of this group, pushes the band into a state of musical aporia: he doesn't accompany solos, he questions them, challenging each musician with his absurdly inventive figures; and he's coming with both jazz and modern western musical arguments. And when it's his solo he dives deeply into the darkest part of the woods and then, when you think he's lost, he's emerged out into the bright light.
Tony Williams seems to be playing in a state of ecstasy: he pounds new worlds into being and the horns have to dance in his garden or die. Ron Carter rocks out on acoustic bass - he keeps the pulse and he untethers Williams and Hancock to play with the rhythm and meter.
Hubbard plays superb and complex music on his solos; Wayne Shorter then steps beyond music and shows us that a horn can be as expressive as natural language.