HERBIE HANCOCK — Maiden Voyage (review)

HERBIE HANCOCK — Maiden Voyage album cover Album · 1965 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Sean Trane
Maybe Hancock’s first solo album, Maiden Voyage bears the reputation of being one of Herbie’s best, but I personally beg to differ. Sure, it’s an album that’s well within the standard jazz of the times, somewhere between Miles’ second quintet, Andrew Hill’s effort, Donald Byrd, Wayne Shorter or Freddie Hubbard’s albums. But we’re nowhere close to the avant-garde of Trane, Cherry or Coleman. In fact, we’re on a typical and veeeery-standard Blue Note album, despite the greenish upper bar on the album’s artwork. Armed with the afore-mentioned Hubbard, and the Miles sidekicks such as Williams and Carter, we also find the other Coleman (George) on the sax. Opening on the 8-mins title track, the standard jazz is dominated (as you’d expect) by Herbie’s piano, but Hubbard’s trumpet plays more than a second fiddle, because it does give about 95% of the track’s charm. The boppy Eye Of The Strom appears to have been recorded in a teacup, but it certainly won’t shatter your musical world or even rock your boat much. Almost ill-titled, it’s just a hard-bop tune that just bores me to sleep. Speaking of sleep, the ultra-slow (at first, anyway) Little One is an obvious lullaby that will hit the bull’s eye halfway through its duration, thus overstaying its welcome for the second half, even if I find it more interesting than anything on the rest of the A-side. The flipside opens on the much-more adventurous 10-mins Survival Of The Fittest, with Williams’ drum solo after the first minute, but the adventure is anything but smooth-flowing and indeed will challenge your patience to endure it for the duration. The closing 9-mins Dolphin Dance is one of Hancock’s best-known and most-reprised composition, and it might indeed the album’s highlight with the title track.

Well, I guess I sound quite severe and harsh on what’s considered by many as Herbie’s finest album, because next to groundbreaking Trane albums of that year, HH’s can sound like almost-commercial mainstream pop-jazz (matter of speech, because it’s not “pop” at all). With all due respect to HH, he will hit the groundbreaking level with the Mwandishi albums a few years later, but in the meantime, he’s in the middle of the pack with his early solo efforts.

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