'Empty Pockets', by Herbie Hancock

Because I’m going to see Hancock with his ‘Tribute To Miles' gig coming Sunday (accompanied by Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller, to name a few), I'm going to get in the mood with today's song 'Empty Pockets’, from Herbie’s first solo album ‘Takin’ Off’, recorded in 1962. ‘Watermelon Man (from the same album) provided Mongo Santamaría with a hit single, but more importantly for Hancock, ‘Takin’ Off’ caught the attention of Miles Davis, who was at that time assembling a new band. He stayed with Miles’s ‘second great quintet’ the next 5 years.

Herbie Hancock - Takin' Off

Flanked by superb personnel that includes trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, saxophonist Dexter Gordon, and drummer Billy Higgins, Hancock offers excellent compositions that balance between adventurousness and the rigors of classic hard bop.

Herbie Hancock - Piano
Dexter Gordon - Tenor Saxophone
Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet
Butch Warren - Bass
Billy Higgins - Drums 

Herbie Hancock on Sesame Street

This is a wonderful clip of Herbie Hancock, demonstrating his Fairlight CMI (Computer Musical Instrument), one the first modern samplers to become commercially available. It changed music production forever, and in order to explain how it worked, Herbie went on Sesame Street, around 1983.
The little girl at the start is Tatyana Ali, who went on to become Ashley Banks in the sitcom ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’.

'Bouquet', by Bobby Hutcherson

Happenings' is the first album to present Hutcherson as the featured soloist fronting a conventional rhythm section, instead of amongst the experimentally-inclined sextets and quintets he'd led and guested with before. These had produced, most notably, Hutcherson's own 'Dialogue’, on which I wrote about earlier.

Today’s featured song ‘Bouquet' is a slow, stately waltz. Hutcherson introduces the theme with supple assistance from Hancock and light brushwork by Chambers.
Note the simplicity of the lines in Herbie’s spare solo and the added dimension supplied by Bob Cranshaw’s bass accents.
"…I was inspired to write ‘Bouquet' after listening to some of the work of Erik Satie (one of my personal favorite composers as well, ed.), says Bobby. He did several things that sound like that to me; he used a lot of 3/4. They’re all seventh and eleventh cords here, moving alternately, like from D to B to D-flat to B-flat to C to A, and so forth. It’s supposed to be a peaceful thing, just to make you relax, with that bass figure as a foundation…”

Bobby Hutcherson - Happenings

For those who are unfamiliar with the work of Erik Satie: I’ve put a perfect example of his work, to which Hutcherson is referring to, here (on my YouTube channel).

Bobby Hutcherson - Vibraphone
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Bob Cranshaw - Bass
Joe Chambers - Drums 

'Footprints', by the Miles Davis Quintet

When I was in Paris last week, I saw a lot of posters announcing a ‘Tribute To Miles' on July 18th, featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Sean Jones (trumpet) and Sean Richman (drums).
Bassist Marcus Miller contrived and produced the tribute, the occasion being the fact that Miles Davis died twenty years ago. Miller was involved with great Davis albums like ‘The Man With the Horn' and 'Tutu’, while Hancock and Shorter had already experienced adventures with the trumpeter in the sixties. 
When I returned home last Saturday, I checked if they would also visit The Netherlands, and found out they will play at the North Sea Jazz Festival on July 10th 2011, in my hometown Rotterdam. I bought a ticket instantly.


To get myself in the mood, here is ‘Footprints’, recorded in Sweden on October 31st, 1967.

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums

'Nefertiti', by The Miles Davis Quintet

Yesterday, I lay in bed, iPod on, eyes closed and goosebumps all over…
OK, maybe this is a piece for the more ‘trained’ ear, but I suggest you put on your headphones or play it loud and give it an eight minute try, if only for the exquisite Tony Williams.

Michelle Mercer writes in her book ‘Footprints’: “…On June 7th, 1967, the band practiced the melody again and again. With the horns in repetition mode, a foundation was laid upon which the rhythm section could improvise. Tony’s (Williams) playing grew more dynamic and insistent with each repetition of the melody.
When they finished the first run-through, it was time to improvise on the theme. But Miles asked: “Hey man, what if we made the tune by just playin’ the melody?” It was so obvious and yet so radical an idea that the band could only laugh in response. No one was doing that in jazz. “That’s it, right?”, Miles said…”

Jack Chambers writes in ‘Milestones’: “…’Nefertiti' includes no solos in any conventional sense. Instead, Davis and Shorter repeat the mournful theme over and over again throughout the track. Yet both in feeling and in fact, the composition remains rich in spontaneity; improvisation is in a sense constant, not only in the play of the rhythm section but even in the theme statements by the horns, which repeat the same basic scale again and again with different nuances each time. It's a remarkable conception, demanding free interplay and controlled license, and one that could be carried off successfully only by players who are gifted individualists and devoted collectivists…”

Bob Blumenthal wrote in Rolling Stone some years later:
"His (Shorter’s) compositions  were becoming statements in themselves instead of mere frames for solos. All three Shorter tunes on Nefertiti (‘Nefertiti’, ‘Fall' and 'Pinocchio’) use melodic repetition to an unprecedented extent and, as interpreted by the great Davis quintet, became hypnotic messengers of something new”. 

The folksinger Joni Mitchell had this very striking comparison: “It’s a very unusual piece of music, in that it’s like a silk screen. They start off in unison, and then they get more and more individuated, like a silk screen slightly offset.”

Miles Davis - Nefertiti

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone 
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Ron Carter - Bass
Tony Williams - Drums 

'For Spee's Sake', by Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard - Hub-Tones

In 1962 (the year of release of this album), Hubbard was still a full time member of The Jazz Messengers, but still had time to record 3 solo albums:
The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard’, ‘Here To Stay' and 'Hub-Tones’. 
While the former two have a lot of that unmistakable Messengers style, ‘Hub-Tones' sounds a lot more like two of Hubbard's collaborations from a few years earlier: 'Free Jazz' and 'Olé Coltrane’. On ‘Hub-Tones’, Hubbard uses the freedom forged by Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, but stays grounded to the classic Blue Note sound.

Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet
James Spaulding - Alto Saxophone
Herbie Hancock - Piano
Reggie Workman - Bass
Clifford Jarvis - Drums