Barnaba Siegel
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6 reviews/ratings
HERBIE HANCOCK - Maiden Voyage Post Bop | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Head Hunters Funk Jazz | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Sextant Fusion | review permalink
AL DI MEOLA - Elegant Gypsy Fusion | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Mr. Hands Funk Jazz | review permalink
HERBIE HANCOCK - Thrust Funk Jazz | review permalink

Jazz Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Funk Jazz 3 4.67
2 Fusion 2 5.00
3 Post Bop 1 5.00

Latest Albums Reviews


Album · 1980 · Funk Jazz
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If I will have to take only 10 music albums on an uninhabited island, one of them would be definitely "Mr. Hands".

This album consist of six tracks and each is a small masterpiece. It's amazing if you will have a look in Hancock's previous records like avarage disco albums "Feets Don't Fail Me Now" and "Monster" or pure acoustic "The Piano" with some jazz standars. It seems that beside those commercial albums (or just on-the-wave of the disco era) Hancock still have some great thoughts of continuing his jazz-funk fusion records.

The album starts with a mind blowing "Spiraling Prism". It's hard for me to even discribe this track. The gentle flow of a bass and very delicate keyboard colorations is like flying in the sky... or watching the dawn through a giant window - and then around 2:20 you will hear how this feeling come to climax and your ears will explode with musical delight like sky fulfills with color's when sun appears. The track, like "Butterfly" from "Thrust", will get thicker and thicker and will give more pleasure with every minute. Just pay some attention, instead of listening to it as a background.

"Calypso" was recorded in trio with Tony Williams and Ron Carter from "Miles times". Fantastic exotic double-bass line is filled with ferious and florid (but not loud!) Williams drums, Hancock's beautiful piano solo and synthesizer that sounds like steel-drum.

"Just Around the Corner" is one of the best jazz-funk piece ever recorded! Slap bass line, provided by Freddie Washington (see "Forget Me Nots" by Patrice Rushen!) is far from a tech-show. It's a true, gripping funky background that changes in fantastic way when Herbie is going higher and higher. And second thing is Herbie of course. He is playing sharp, fusion-like synthesizer and soft Fender Rhodes. Do you fill lack of keyboards on "Sunlight"? Than listen to this!

Piece called "4 AM" is another gem. One more time - the bass. This time it's Jaco Pastorius who is really flying there. This is the reason why everybody loves this guy so much. He doesn't repeat the theme, he is playing something like a constant solo. Amazing! And one more time - the keyboards. This time Hancock turns into Jan Hammer's-like sound of electric guitar that adds a lot of flavour in this wonderful "constant-jam" tune. And again he plays beautiful solos on Fender.

On "Shiftless Shuffle" (which he played for the first time a year before on Japan-only "Direcstep" LP) we have a Headhunters meeting. The original jazzfunk-crew drives again. However it doesn't remind those long funky-jams from middle of 70's, it's much more jazz in a funky skin.

The LP ends with a real bliss. "Textures" is one of the most wonderful track I've ever heard! Despite it's the simplest track of whole album, it takes you 500 miles high and makes you don't want to come back to the Earth.

When somebody is a jazz-funk lover, it's really hard to unappreciate this great album. It's also good to notice that album is one of those that very clearly ends the glorious 70's. The next Herbie's LP - Magic Windows - will be a step into new style and all those electronic disco-funk things.

AL DI MEOLA Elegant Gypsy

Album · 1977 · Fusion
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This is surely the best Di Meola's "electric" work and one of the most beautiful jazz-rock album of the '70s. However it's very tricky.

"Elegant Gypsy" is one the these album that leaves just "good" impresion after first time you hear it. You will like hard'n'heavy "Race With The Devil On Spanish Highway" and briliant acoustic "Mediterranean Sundance", but you won't like the long "Flight Over Rio" intro and the almost latin-pop-with-fusion-licks "Midnight Tango". That's the first impression. And the second, and the third.

Yes, this is the album that needs a lot of attention and listening to this "just good fusion" at least several times. Every pieces have a depth that needs to be "discovered". And it's also that type of album that will reveal more beauty with each playthrough - no matter if you'd listened to it 10 or 100 times.

The beginning is briliiant. Fantastic and very original bass-line in "Flight Over Rio" is like a true visualisation of the title. Add to it a bit of Moog and Arp background and you're actually flying. But this is just and intro to the fusion-samba piece. Turn the volume up to admire agressive Di Meola's entrance and his well-considered solo, that later turns into a dialogue with Hammer's Moog.

We follow with the most delicate piece of this album. After soft Fender intro Meola smoothly enters with the tango and drums bass line playing a bit simple, yet very touching notes. Fortunately not the whole piece is a soft tango ballad. There are few counter-points and changes that makes the whole piece very gripping and a bit unpredictable. With a hot jazzrock finish.

"Elegant Gypsy" features also the most recognizable and propably the best Di Meola's composition - "Mediterranean Sundance". The whole track is played in duo with Paco De Lucia - the master of flamenco guitar. The beauty of this acoustic landscape is undeniable. I think that this piece was the first meeting with flamenco music for thousands of people, who expected pure jazzrock or jazz-pieces like "No Mystery" or "Romantic Warrior" with Return To Forever.

The acoustic piece is followed by the fusion of jazzrock and proto-metal named "Race With The Devil On Spanish Highway" which is the most favourite Di Meola's piece of all metal-lovers. Although it begins with heavy theme, it's also doesn't have a straight, simple structure as it is build like a suite. "Race" is surely the most powerful show of Di Meola's skills and technique, still there are many fine elements and keyboard playing fot jazzrock fans.

After a nice, but only 1:46 minutes filler the album ends with the "Elegant Gypsy Suite". Second tango in this set, now played in 100% jazzrock style and featuring again great Jan Hammer on keyboards. However this is the most disappointing track of the whole album. It lasts for over 9-minutes, but you can clearly hear, that both Meola's and Hammer's improvisations should last at least two time longer! This mistake was repaired 5 years later with release of live album.

What is best about this album - really catchy and very original tunes, just like those from electric Return To Forever period. But on the other-hand - not so simple structure of each tune and very rich background with keyboards and percussions. You can dig this album for infinite times - you won't feel bored and you will still find new hidden gems.


Album · 1973 · Fusion
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5/5 doesn't mean this album is equally good as "Headhunters" or "Maiden Voyage". This is the masterpiece of it's own time, but still after so many years it makes a great impression. Unique, original and inteligent.

The history of music is very tricky. Every one thinks that after "Emergency!", "Bitches Brew" and some late 60s prog-rock albums the beging of the JAZZ-ROCK was a fact. No, it was not! It had taken a few years to stabilize this guitar and synthesizer driven fusion. Before this jazz musicians were still searching for the right direction.

"Sextant" is an good example of this somehow mysterious 1969-1972 period. It is a new "Maiden Voyage" into the world where jazz meets electronic music, avant-garde and rock. Yes, rock. Despite there are no guitars, "Sextant" does have very "rocky" feeling.

The first track is mind-blowing. Do you see the cover with those tribal people dancing on kind of a cosmic Egypt under the giant Moon? This is the best description of this music I can imagine. "Rain Dance" is an intelectual journey into space. And it also differs a lot from monotonous (yet fascinating!!!) early Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze albums. If you are an electronic maniac, you can't miss the amazing keyboard playing by Hancock and Patrick Glesson.

"Hidden Shadows" is a very specific mixture of rock and jazz. Sharp, but laid-back, theme expressed by brass, electric bass and key riffs sound much like a rock or krautrock psychedelic track. But instead of guitar playing and power-drumming there are lots of a slighlty free-jazz sax, trumpet and synth notes. There is also a crazy staccato Herbie's solo that drives the track into extremely dense, cosmic ending.

The last track is a hardcore one. After a few minutes of loose intro and some bee-like sounds, the drum break at 3:17 begins the proper, fiery Hornets theme. The main part is almost constant dialogue between keayboards (lot of fun hearing those mad ring modulator, wah-wah and echoplex effects!) and brass. It sound like a meeting of gods, young genius musicians that have an opportunity to fulfifl the whole track with their crazy, new ideas. It's also good to notice the untypical groove that can remind a bit the afro-beat music. This track also shows that Hancock is still a brilliant jazz pianist who can play improvization that winds in the unexpectable direction.

"Sextant" is an amazing show of the expanding of the world jazz. But it's also good to remember that this album is strongly avant-garde and won't fit into ears of orthodox mainstream listener or someone searching for jazz-funk gems.


Album · 1974 · Funk Jazz
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This is an excelent example of a great, yet not fantastic album.

After recording four-track "Headhunters" LP it seems that Hancock found a formula for successful album - compose a funky groove, add many electronic colorations and play some space solos. Don't get me wrong - it isn't bad! But you have to had brilliant compositions and interesting new ideas.

Unfortunately the "Thrust" LP is opened by a bit dull "Palm Grease". As a big fan of jazz-funk it's quite attractive to me to listen to 10-minutes exotic funk jam, but when I'm listen closer to it, I found there really nothing as interesting as on "Headhunters". It can as well last for 5 or 20 minutes!

Fortunately the second track is a KILLER! "Actual Proof" comes with one of the most inteligent and creative bass lines EVER! This track, in contrast to the first one, successfully cathes the idea I wrote about above. The jazz-funk drive is so gorgeus that Herbie managed to play almost every solos and we don't feel bored with it! Also Maupin turned from harsh sax to a gentle flute.

Third track is "Butterfly". It's good to notice how well it is built. And how well title matches the music. It begins with a sluggish trance theme, that somehow reminds a morning on a glade or a meadow. The music get thicker about 2:00, the rhyhtm is slowly speeding up and Maupin starts with soprano sax solo. After next 2 minutes track becomes more dense, Herbie begin his Fender solos and add some more Arp background and Clavinet about 7:00 what makes this whole Butterfly fly really fast!

Album ends with more funk-jazz oriented "Spank-A-Lee". But the fantastic theme wasn't filled up properly. Although it's full of brilliant, "fat" bass and synthesizer notes, great drums playing and you can listen to it endleslly, it really lacks something really gripping in the middle.

Still, "Thrust" is one of the classic jazz-funk albums that is absolutely worth hearing. However some synth-maniacs can be dissapointed that despite cover with keyboard-spaceship the LP isn't as cosmic and synth-oriented as it could be.


Album · 1973 · Funk Jazz
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This album is totally visible landmark of not only jazz, but the whole popular disco music.

After few years of electronic avant-garde period Hancock found himself not in the point he had previously wanted to be. His Mwandishi sextet, yet very original, didn't gain so much popularity it deserved. There vere also some financial issue. Herbie turned into a rising jazz-funk music (he was also one of the pioneer in popularising this kind of music with r'n'b "Watermelon man" in '63).

The album starts with an absolute killer - legandary "Chameleon". The funky syntesizer bass line quickly became a great inspirations for many fusion bands all over the world. But the synth-work isn't the only interesting thing in this track. There is also a very clever use of saxophone by "one-man horn section" Bennie Maupin and untypical "broken" funky percussions. And long, long keyboard solos. In contrast to Blue Note and CTI jazz-funk records from this time you won't find easy-listening Fender solos on this album. Herbie goes hardcore with his incredible keys playing. Despite rhyhtm is ideal for disco, average listener won't find it easy to dance to it as well to listen to it! This over 15-minutes tracks consist also of beautiful part filled with extremely original bass playing by great Paul Jackson, cunning Fender solos by Hancock and beautiful synth textures.

"Watermelon Man" is amazing cover of Hancock's tune from '63. A slow jam reminds a kind of crazy, slow tribal trance-dance or ritual with lead played by whistling into glass bottles!

"Sly" is a tribute to Sly and his Family Stone, which had a tremendous influence on 70s black music. Yet there are no screams or guitar, the sharp intro reminds a funky-rock playing. Main part of the track is again a brilliant bass theme and energetic drums and conga playing that gives excelent layer for harsh Maupin sax solos and dynamic, fast Hancock's Fender solo.

The weakest point of the album is the last track. After an real musical orgy we have to travel back in time to something that sounds like 60s tune with keyboards and new arrangements. I'd listen to this album dozens of time and I still can't understand why this track is on this album.

Neverthelss - it's impossible to deny the value "Headhunters" and it's impact on world music. Jazz and jazz-funk lovers will... love it (especialy those who seek for something more difficult to listen to), any other music fans won't pass it indifferently.

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