Herbie Hancock is one of those rare musicians who has managed to maintain a level of critical and commercial success, whilst demonstrating adaptability and embracing new technologies.
As a teenager, in the 80’s, my first exposure to Herbie’s music was through “Rockit”, which at the time sounded mind-blowing with its futuristic blend of scratching, heavy beats and spaced out keys. However it’s the 70’s and those great electric jazz funk, starting with Mwandishi through to the more commercial fusion sounds on Sunlight, that really hit home for me. As a result I tend to overlook the Blue Note era although anthems like “Maiden Voyage” (featured here) were regularly updated and re-interpreted.
This recording was made by local radio station WXRT-FM of a concert at Ivanhoe Theater in Chicago, on 16 February 1977, and has been available as a bootleg for some time.
In fact, searching through blogosphere, it appears that there are lots of bootleg recordings of Herbie Hancock from this period, with very few live dates getting official releases. This intense interest in live recording is also evident in Jaco Pastorius’s musical estate, although many more of these were released posthumously.
Hancock and Pastorius had played together before; on the legendary bassist’s debut solo album, but at this time he was still a part of Weather Report. The quartet is made up of Hancock’s long time collaborator and fellow Headhunter, Bennie Maupin playing Soprano/Tenor Sax and Lyricon, that strange wind synthesizer, and James Levi on drums.
The group performs three Hancock songs, the Headhunters classic ”Chameleon”, “Hang up your Hang Ups” from the Man Child Album, and the evergreen “Maiden Voyage”. “It Remains to be Seen” is the exception, composed by Benny Maupin.
To be honest I have a number of issues with this release. Firstly it’s apparent that the recording is not the whole of the concert and with a running time under 45 minutes is disappointing in terms of value for money, if nothing else.
The recording itself is OK, although there are points where feedback, clipping and flutter are distracting.
As for the music itself, with the exception of “Maiden Voyage” the tracks are extended jams over funky beats. The opening tune “Chameleon” features interplay between Hancock with Pastorius, taking it in turns to riff over that familiar bass line. For me it struggles when held up to the original, the fluency and melody of the album version missing in this stripped down version, especially in the second half.
Bennie Maupin blows pretty hard on “Hang Up Your Hang Ups”, on what would be my favourite track if sound issues did not get in the way. The tempo is dropped for “Maiden Voyage”, which again focuses on the musical chops of Messrs. Hancock and Pastorius. It’s pleasant enough in a slightly loose, improvised way. “It Remains to be Seen” is the funkiest tune in the set but not the most memorable.
This release will be of interest if you are an avid collector of Herbie Hancock or Jaco Pastorius and adds to a fairly limited set of live recordings of the former, but struggles to offer much else.