HERBIE HANCOCK — Thrust (review)

HERBIE HANCOCK — Thrust album cover Album · 1974 · Funk Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Some albums so transcend their genre that to include them with others of their genre almost seems like an insult. Would you say that 'Talking Book' was just another RnB album, or that 'It Takes a Nation of Millions ..' is just another hip-hop disc. Such is the case with Herbie Hancock's Thrust, this is what most would label funk-jazz, but you will not find another funk jazz album like this, not by Herbie, not by anyone. The level of sophisticated syncopation and inventive rhythmic interplay between the musicians on here is just mind boggling. I've been playing fusion for over 30 years and this album still blows me away, how do they do this! Drummer Mike Clark has got to be one of the slickest trickiest drummers out there, and the rest of Herbie's crew seems to relish every twist and turn he throws at them. I'll never forget the first time I heard this album. 'Palm Grease' opens with the expected rock beat boom-pow of kick on 1 and 3, and snare on 2 and 4 and then all of a sudden the kick hits twice and ends up on the and of 1 which throws the snare onto the and of 2 and the and of 4, and then back to the original beat. It may not sound like a big deal now, but at the time I felt my world had been turned upside down and sideways. As difficult as this music may be to execute, this isn't lifeless technical exercises in rhythmic complexity, just the opposite, every tune on here is full of joy and kinetic energy, easily this is one of the liveliest albums I have ever heard.

All on this album is not just poly-rhythms though, as usual with Hancock you also get the best electric piano solos in the business, brilliant mini-orchestrations that feature Herbie's fleet of analog keyboards with Bennie Maupin's woodwinds, and lots of 70s styled 'futuristic' synthesizer effects and solos. The synthesizer was still fairly new to jazz when this album came out, and no one in jazz at that time was orchestrating with electronics the way Hancock was.

You get four tunes on this masterpiece, 'Palm Grease' and 'Actual Proof' fill side one with abstact synth driven post-funk free-form algorithmic constructions. While side two opens with 'Butterfly', one of Herbie's many brilliant laid-back futuristic sophisto-lounge pieces. This is a style that is unique to Hancock, and a style he returns to throughout his career. The album closes with 'Spank-a-Lee', a JBs meets Sly Stone styled RnB funk number that is driven into hyper space by one of Herbie's trademark 'brink of insanity' electric piano solos, and then pushed even further by Bennie Maupin's saxophone which battles furiously against Herbie's heavy synth-horn lines.

This is a great album, all of the musicians are top notch and at the peak of their game, and if you are a fusion musician yourself, this album will have you shaking your head in a state of disbelief, especially on 'Actual Proof' when the musicians come out of the ongoing improvised chaos and play unison lines seemingly at random points in the song, how do they do this!
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