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Hancock's Finest Hour,
This review is from: Maiden Voyage (Audio CD)As prolific an artist as Herbie Hancock has been over 40 years, this album endures as probably his best. He had made a startling contribution to 60s jazz already with the excellent debut album, 'Takin off' and the follow up, 'Empyrean Isles.' Although they contained more obvious 'hits in the form of 'Watermelon Man' and the wonderful 'Canteloupe Island,' this is his most consistent album.
Part of the lasting appeal of this record is its thematic approach, as all five tracks come across as part of the same whole, almost like a classical suite, with the ocean as its 'subject matter.' This was an unusual and bold step in the field of jazz but the music's descriptive nature is one of the reasons that people remember the whole record rather than just five individual tracks. It is a key part of the album's appeal, and most importantly, it works. The music is successfully subject driven rather than style orientated, and is both highly original and atmospheric throughout.
The obvious masterpiece of the album is the title track itself, a piece which slowly gets under your skin, and gets better with each listen. Hancock's steady repeated pattern gently grounds the whole piece, and Freddie Hubbard plays a superb solo alternating between calm tranquility, and majestic power.
The rest of the album ranges from the gently swinging 'Dolphin Dance,' the quiet beauty of the 'Little One' (also recorded by Miles Davis' quintet on ESP), to the menacing 'Eye of the Hurricane' and the thrill ride of 'Survival of the Fittest.' The whole band is brilliant, each following the leader's concept with music of lasting value. Freddie Hubbard not only confirms, but enhances his reputation as one of the most versatile and important soloists in jazz at the time, Joe Henderson is slightly less to the fore but is still excellent and the rhythm section are on the ball throughout.
One of the great 60s jazz albums and an essential part of anything like a jazz collection.