HERBIE HANCOCK — Crossings (review)

HERBIE HANCOCK — Crossings album cover Album · 1972 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Atavachron
Nothing like it had ever been done. By the end of the 1960s, modern jazz had traveled a world away from its humble beginnings, having inspired as many non-jazz artists as it had produced stars. Keyboardist Herbie Hancock was a central part of that American jazz renaissance which saw not only the relatively young form come into its own as a truly viable art, but unexpectedly grow into something beyond even the bloody revolutions of John Coltrane, quiet coups of Miles Davis, and hostile takeovers of Tony Williams & John McLaughlin. Hancock's 1972 offering was an altogether new sound, and though its moods and textures had been gingerly approached by others (and Hancock himself on the previous Mwandashi),Crossings was a fully realized music come of age at just the right moment. "The new avant-garde has finally found a direction", he reflected in 1971, "but it's like a spectrum. It's not one direction; there are many and they all have to do with giving people an experience rather than just giving them a bunch of notes". This 'experience' set the tone for most of the important directions in jazz - and much music in general - that followed. A fresh voice of improvisation and adventure that began finding its way into almost every film, TV show, and jazz & fusion record. It was real, urban, alive, and it was terribly American.

Billy Hart's drums and the child's play of the band on various pan-African percussives create the drum conversation that opens 'Sleeping Giant', Hancock's electric piano eventually chiming in, Buster Williams's resonant upright bass rises and falls and things begin to heat up nicely. A quiet reflection at the 7-minute mark vibrates with the bitter experimentation of Schoenberg and evolves into bumpy funk before slowing again for a refrain of brass, the band throbbing with Benny Maupin's bass clarinet and Eddie Henderson's flugelhorn dueling with the bass & drums, ending softly after twenty-five minutes. Uneasy 'Quasar' settles on a complex Latin rhythm and then dissolves into cosmic pie, and 14-minute 'Water Torture' further explores the griot drum languages of the Mande and Soninke as it wanders and weeps through the streets of a sleeping city.

A transcendent experience that has grown over time into one of the most powerful, moving and innovative artistic statements of the modern era, and no music like it has since emerged.
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