By Ric Bang
Buy CD: A Tribute to Herbie + 1
First came the artist, and his music: Herbie Hancock, born in 1940, was a child prodigy. At age 11, he performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At 20, he was playing jazz with Donald Byrd and Coleman Hawkins, and he joined Miles Davis’ great quintet in 1963. But Hancock wasn’t merely a player, he’s also a composer and innovator. He earned degrees in music, electrical engineering and fine arts, and was one of the first to introduce electronic instruments into jazz.
This album is a tribute to Hancock: All but one of the tunes are his compositions.
Mats Holmquist is one of the jazz world’s finest composers and arrangers. He arranged all the charts on this album, and wrote the one equally fine original (“Stevie R.”). Holmquist has long been a huge fan of Hancock’s work, and this album is by way of a tribute.
Saxophone artist Dick Oatts, an icon on that instrument, also is a Hancock fan. Holmquist chose Oatts to co-create this CD, and they assembled the New York Jazz Orchestra: all first-call artists from New York City and Scandinavia. The result is one of the swinging-est releases to arrive in years.
Everybody is familiar with Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” and “Watermelon Man” but — as this album demonstrates — “Dolphin Dance,” “Chameleon” and “Maiden Voyage” are equally grooving. “Eye of the Hurricane,” “Jessica” and “Toys” are lesser known, but Hancock’s footprints are all over them.
The arrangements are sensational, and the orchestra’s execution by is outstanding. (The liner notes reveal that the group gathered for only one rehearsal, and that only one of the recording sessions required a second take.) The solo performances are fantastic; every section contributes one or more artists who add to the excitement delivered by the full ensemble.
Thanks to Herbie, Mats, Dick and Summit Records, for this sensational release!