HERBIE HANCOCK — V.S.O.P. (review)

HERBIE HANCOCK — V.S.O.P. album cover Live album · 1977 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
When this album came out in late 1976, it was an absolute breath of fresh air for a jazz-rock/fusion scene that was becoming increasingly boring and routine. While many fusion bands were becoming more commercial and laid-back, and still others more mechanical and 'rock like' in their music, Herbie came out with this live set that was a blast of real jazz, the likes of which had not been heard in a while. For this special occasion Hancock invited three of his best bands to play: The 60s Miles Davis quintet with Freddie Hubbard replacing Miles, Herbie's early 70s Sextet, and his mid-70s funk group, The Headhunters. Each of these three bands is in top form here, and almost all of the music on this two LP set is as fresh, exciting and challenging now as it was back then.

The Quintet opens with three incredible numbers that show them playing with much more fiery aggressive abandon now that Freddie Hubbard has replaced Miles. The mysterious Shorter composition, 'Nefertiti', really stands out with it's bizarre repeating melody while Tony Williams is on fire as he interjects crazy poly-rhythms wherever he can.

Next up is Herbie's most experimental group, The Sextet. Their first tune is an OK avant-garde/post-bop number, but it is followed by 'You'll Know When You Get There', a tune which better allows this band to show off their brilliant collective improvs that combine three horn players and Hancock's array of electronic keyboards and effects. It would have been nice to hear more from this band, they never cease to amaze.

The show closes with The Headhunters playing some of their more commercial funk, but still giving it a lot of spirit and energy and providing a text book example of how much can be done with one vamp in one key. These two LPs capture a 'very special one-time performance' indeed, and provide a great way to hear an overview of Herbie's career from the early 60s to the mid-70s. Overall a very fun high energy concert featuring some of the best musicians of that decade.
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