Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Herbie Hancock: Tune In. Turn On. Funk Out.

Herbie Hancock (piano; b. 1940)
Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings (WEA)

Herbie Hancock has had an illustrious career. He is revered and honored inside and outside of jazz. Many of you may know him either from his seminal work with Miles Davis, the '80s pop/rock small futuristic hit single "Rock It", the awful '90s reinterpretation of "Cantaloupe Island" by British outfit US3 or more recently from the well received and well conceived River: The Joni Letters album from a year ago that won a Grammy of the Year.

Herbie Hancock has done so much work beyond these major accomplishments its almost impossible to name them all. But one era I feel that gets neglected is his semi-acoustic/fusion era just prior to forming his band The Headhunters and working towards the hit "Rock It". This includes two fantastic sessions done for Atlantic Records now called Mwandishi (Swahili for Herbie). Mwandishi is actually three albums (Fat Albert Rotunda, Mwandishi and Crossing) recorded between 1969 -1971. They have recently been repackaged as Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings (WEA) and are highly recommended.

Mwandishi was done shortly after Hancock's stint with Miles Davis. Hancock began experimenting with more Funk orientated rhythms before he created the group that would record his Columbia debut Sextant and the classic Headhunters ('72 and '73 respectfully). The Warner Brothers recordings were more of a spiritual journey for Hancock. The records explored more African/Eastern themes while incorporating some shades of funk through Buster Williams (acoustic/electric bass), Albert Heath (drums) and the infectious harmonics of Hancock (piano, electric piano).

Not well received at the time but as the years have gone on, these records along with the Columbia releases that would follow, were picked up by the Acid Jazz/Nu Soul scene in the UK during the 90s and has made allot of people go back and revisit these truly essential pieces of Herbie Hancock's history. Looking for those additional missing links after Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings (WEA) is a good place to start. Tune In. Turn On. Have a funky good time.

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