THE DOZENS: URI CAINE SELECTS 12 ESSENTIAL HERBIE HANCOCK TRACKS by Ted Panken (editor)

Few jazz-related artists are busier these days than pianist-composer Uri Caine, whose international career transpires on the strength of a series of recordings for the German label, Winter & Winter, that document his dialectical tinkerings with multiple musical traditions – concerto, sonata, and opera from the Euro-Canon; Tin Pan Alley; electronica; the jazz canon.



                   Uri Caine, by Jos L. Knaepen


Named for label producer Stefan Winter, Winter & Winter was JMT in 1993, when Winter signed Caine on the advice of tenorman Gary Thomas, then an M-BASE associate of Steve Coleman, who recorded for the label along with Cassandra Wilson, Paul Motian, and other avatars of cusp-of-the-’90s experimental jazz. On the second of Caine’s 19 JMT recordings, Toys, recorded in 1995, his ensemble, which featured Douglas, Thomas, Don Byron, Dave Holland, Ralph Peterson and Don Alias, tackled four reconstructed Herbie Hancock standards and six tone-parallel-to-Herbie originals. Something about what Caine did with this repertoire inspired Winter to suggest Caine do the first of his several Mahler deconstructions, Urlicht�Primal Light.

Caine predicates all of his work in this area on the belief that to take �a preexisting form and transform it through group improvisation can be done with any music,� while rigorously addressing the qualities that make each musical food group what it is. That his intense examination of Hancock�s music provided early clues in guiding him along this path is apparent in the text below



                Herbie Hancock, by Jos L. Knaepen


�A lot of of my choices for this �Musician�s Dozen� have to do with my own impression of Herbie’s music when I first heard it as a young musician,� he writes. �It is so difficult to pick between so many great choices�Herbie plays in so many styles and configurations as both a leader and a sideman, and has been part of so many historic groups. His work on sessions by Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson and many more inspired so many musicians. I also admire a lot of his more recent music, even though I have not included it in this article, which mostly favors his music from the 60’s and 70’s, the music I grew up with as a young musician.�


Herbie Hancock: One Finger Snap

Track

One Finger Snap

Artist

Herbie Hancock (piano)

CD

Empyrean Isles (Blue Note 91142)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (piano), Freddie Hubbard (cornet), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums).

Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 17, 1964

Albumcoverhhancockempyrean

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

This was one of the first of Herbies tunes that I ended up transcribing; I love the way his lines are moving through the chords. Its unique and innovative, bringing bebop to the next level of harmonic innovation. The composition is so open-ended harmonically, and the rhythm section sparkles as they follow Freddie Hubbard's solo and play over the changes. The chords are not the expected II-V-I type of changes that you find either in standards or in older bebop tunes. Every chord change is its own mode, its own area, and the way that Herbie defines and identifies each of these areas is so creative. He uses the harmonic areas as a springboard for these lines, but it doesnt sound schematic at allits fresh and inspired. A lot of it also has to do with Herbie's touch, and the rhythmic freedom of the solo, the fluidity of his lines.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Miles Davis: My Funny Valentine

Track

My Funny Valentine (1964)

Artist

Miles Davis (trumpet)

CD

The Complete Concert 1964 - My Funny Valentine + Four & More (Legacy/Columbia)

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Musicians:

Miles Davis (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums).

Composed by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart

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Recorded: live at Philharmonic Hall, New York, February 12, 1964

Albumcovermilesdavis-completeconcert1964-myfunnyvalentine-plusfourandmore

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

My Funny Valentine made such a strong impression on me when I first heard it. I understood how standards could be opened up and played in many different ways, using many different grooves and a flexible approach in choosing chords and harmonic substitutions. It starts as a duet between Herbie and Miles, and Herbie uses very extended chords, substituting new chords for the songs original chords. The pianistic touch and textures he brings in are so beautiful, and create a lot of contrast in his accompaniment to Miles. Some chords that he uses behind Miles might have two notes, while others are richer and denser, often implying polytonality; he superimposes different chords, which gives the song a lush, impressionistic harmony. Then when the whole group starts to come in and swing, Herbie responds to whatever events occur. Sometimes he lays back or plays against Tony Williams polyrhythms. In comping for the soloists, sometimes he leads them on, but he also uses a lot of harmonic abstraction. His own solo is very creative and emotional he hints at the harmony and uses a lot of substitutions, so it has a fresh, unexpected sound, And when he starts to swing, it is intense! You could say that he might be coming out of a combination of Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, but the actual sound is so distinctive as to be immediately identifiable as Herbie. I think that this piece influenced a lot of pianists, first of all, in how they reharmonized standards, and also towards using much more advanced type of harmony for the timewhat he did was really special.

Its hard to pick just one tune on which Herbie is playing with Miles. I also love how creatively he plays on "All of You," where each soloist ends the solo with an extended tag in Eb. Another great recording that I listened to endlessly are all the sets from the Plugged Nickel. Of course, Herbie is operating as part of a very innovative rhythm section, so its not just him. For example, Tony Williams was changing the parameters of how drummers play with the group, because he would switch up the grooves so much and could swing in so many tempos and feels. This rhythm section instantly adapts to any little hint of change. If it seems like Miles is going to start swinging, they swing. If it feels like he wants to slow down and make it a ballad, they slow down and make it a ballad. If they want to go into sort of a Latin feel, they do that. Each person in the rhythm section, either Herbie or Ron or Tony, can initiate the move, because theyre listening so closely to each other and to the soloist. It led to a much more interactive concept of group playing than what had been happening, where the rhythm section would keep the rhythm going in one way, and the pianist fed the chords to the soloist. But I think Miles was encouraging them to experiment that way. Any one of them could take the lead, or drop out, or play strong, or sort of take the lead. Playing a standard but opening it up to a wide range of mutating possibilities instead of playing head-solos-head gave the music a different dynamicthe tune itself could be taken through all these different feels and emotions, imparting freshness and an unexpected quality.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage

Track

Maiden Voyage

Artist

Herbie Hancock (piano)

CD

Maiden Voyage (Blue Note 95331)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (piano), George Coleman (tenor sax), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums).

Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, N.J., March 17, 1965

Herbie_hancock--maiden_voyage

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Maiden Voyage uses more static harmonic areas than a tune with a lot of fast moving changes. The first section moves from a D-suspended chord to an F-suspended chord, and the rhythmic feel is a cross between a straight eighth-note feel and a sort of Latin vibe. Instead of moving through a lot of harmonic changes, the song stays on these areas for a longer period of time. The way Herbie plays on it is less a question of lines than that hes using the harmonic space as a springboard to play a great variety of musical ideas. Herbie's way of playing over the changes is so fresh, and the rhythmic feel is relaxed but intense at the same time. He's not playing through II-V-I standards harmony, or even bebop harmony. Its much more of a modal thing. The song gives him time to flesh out ideas, some involving lines, and some of which are much more harmonic or rhythmic. I think that during this period when a lot of modal playing was happening, a lot of players were looking to slow down the harmonic movement of the tunes to allow a certain space to occur in order to allow a variety of melodic, rhythmic and textural ideas to develop within the solo. Its not just playing lines over those chords, which could sound boring after a while. Herbies ideas follow each other logically, but theres a feeling of contrast, of dialogue or a sort of discourse, where he presents one idea, then the next, and a story is being told. Hes also a very interactive player, and hes feeding off of whats happening in the rhythm section.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Herbie Hancock: Actual Proof

Track

Actual Proof

Artist

Herbie Hancock (Fender Rhodes, Hohner clavinet, synthesizer)

CD

Thrust (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (Fender Rhodes, Hohner clavinet, synthesizer),

Bennie Maupin (flute, sax), Paul Jackson (bass), Mike Clark (drums)

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Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: August 1974

Album-thrust

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Actual Proof from the record Thrust was very important to me. One thing that I love about it is the way the structure workstheres a tricky bassline where sometimes youre not sure where one is, and sometimes the second beat sounds like its on oneand how the improvisation works against the structure. As those events happen, the soloists challenge is to make sure hes expressing what the structure is, while also playing through it. Here Mike Clark is really funky, Paul Jackson plays very contrapuntally, and Herbie plays creative, open ideas against that. I also like that its an electric piano. Herbie is not only a great acoustic piano player, but also really got the thwack you need to play the different colors that the electric piano brought into the musicand here all those colors are on display. Sometimes hes playing really complicated lines against the bassline. Other times hes really funky against the bassline. Other times, hes sort of playing counter-rhythms against the bassline, which has the effect of taking something thats displaced and displacing it even further. The whole thing adds up into a really thrilling song. Theres a thrilling version of "Actual Proof on a record called The Flood, which was a live date made in Japan about a year later with the same rhythm section, but Herbie is playing acoustic. Ill choose this version, because its the first one that came out. I also like that its really funky, but once you start to delve into the structure, its not just predictable funk. Its a puzzle to play over, but youd never know from the ease and grace Herbie expresses when he plays on it. Hes always so rhythmically secure, so that even when things get really tricky, hes just floating above it and playing the form.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: Liza

Track

Liza (All The Clouds'll Roll Away)

Artist

Herbie Hancock (piano) and Chick Corea (piano)

CD

An Evening With Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea (Columbia 46865)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (piano), Chick Corea (piano).

Composed by George & Ira Gershwin

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Recorded: Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco, February 1978

Herbie___chick

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Its hard for me pick between Liza and Someday My Prince Will Come on this record, but I will pick Liza. Herbie is always so open to playing with other people in different situations. One challenge of duo piano playing is that if either of the pianists takes up too much space, it doesnt give room to the other person. Its a real test of how interactive you can be. Yet, on the other hand, the more you go for it in terms of setting up something that the other pianist has to react to, then the more the music can go in different places. I remember seeing Herbie and Chick play live at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia, when they came out on tour. It was very strange, because a lot of the crowd showed up expecting a fusion concert from the advertising, and when two guys came out and just played acoustic piano, there was a lot of stirringthey werent so happy with it. But I was thrilled, because I couldnt believe they were just playing standardsand really playing their asses off! I also remember that Herbie and Chick played on a local TV show in Philadelphia called The Mike Douglas Show to promote their gig. Mike Douglas was a sort of crooner who had a talk show but it was an incredible showyou can see great videos of Sly Stone and Muhammad Ali on his show. He would invite Yoko Ono and John Lennon. People would come down to Philadelphia for a week, and he would let them dominate the show. Anyway, Herbie and Chick went on the show and accompanied him on Im Beginning To See The Light and then each took an incredible solo. He just let them play and the music went so many places. Thats what happens on this songat first theyre playing very impressionistically, in a free rubato style, where theres not really a lot of time; then they start swinging, and accompany each other in a more straight-ahead feel; and then they start trading, and the trades get more and more outrageous in how far theyre taking it out. Herbie would play something that almost recalled a stride thing, Chick would answer with something stride and then play some really out stuff, then Herbie would answer with out stuff. To see how two people with different styles, both virtuosos, were able to accompany and complement and push each other, and also how hard they were listening to each other, made a strong impression on me as a pianist, game me a real feeling of joy and uplift. One of the attractive things about Herbie is the lack of what I guess you could call egoshowing off virtuosity for its own sake. Hes really in the music all the time. I think its great playing by him as well as by Chick. Both Chick and Herbie have distinctive solo styles, and theyre both pushing each other. They both have enormous range, not just as ensemble players, but also as soloists. Its an obscure record in Herbies total discography. But its stuck with me, and Ive listened to it a lot.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Herbie Hancock: Riot

Track

Riot

Artist

Herbie Hancock (piano)

CD

Speak Like a Child (Blue Note)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (piano), Thad Jones (flugelhorn), Ron Carter (bass), Mickey Roker (drums),

Peter Phillips (bass trombone), Jerry Dodgion (alto flute)

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Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, N.J., March 6, 1968

Albumcoverherbiehancock-speaklikeachild

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

I love Riot from Speak Like a Child, and I also like a song from that record called First Trip. In fact, every tune on Speak Like A Child has something specialI love the whole date. Herbie sounds so exuberant. It has a personal association, because Mickey Roker, who played in Philly a lot, is the drummer, and his swing is so effervescent and so clear. As a young musician I would always ask him what it was like to play with Herbie on Speak Like A Child.

On "Riot I like the marriage between a very sophisticated arrangement and a group structure in which a small ensemble is playing versus Herbies solo. Theres one moment when Herbie has finished the first part of the solo, the ensemble comes in, sets up the next part, and Herbie hits this perfect chord. You get the feeling that hes reacted to whats going on with the arrangement that he wrote, but also that he found this new area, and BOOM, he hit this chord and hes off again. The rhythm section (Ron Carter is playing bass) is propulsive, its grooving in a sort of medium swing, and Herbies killing ithes playing one new idea after another, line after line after line, and it goes on and on. He combines a lot of the things that make his style so instantly recognizabletheres the real bluesy feel and swinging touch, but he also puts in a lot of unexpected, quirky things, a lot of rhythmic devices that work against the swing, and then also he really is the master of setting things and using tension-and-release.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Herbie Hancock: Succotash

Track

Succotash

Artist

Herbie Hancock (piano)

CD

Inventions And Dimensions (Blue Note 63798)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Willie Bobo (drums), Osvaldo Chihuahua Martinez (percussion).

Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 30, 1963

Albumcoverherbiehancock-inventionsanddimensions

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

One doesnt normally think of Herbie in this context, but on Inventions and Dimensions, playing with a group you wouldnt necessarily expect, he plays with Latin grooves as well as swing. Its his new take on Latin music. From time to time, he nods towards the Latin piano tradition with montuno-like figures,etc., but then he brings in his own thing. Its great to hear a musician try to explore different aspects of music that arent associated with whats stereotypically supposed to be their thing, and yet, you can hear the authority and the creativity with which Herbie brings his own thing to that groove, as he did on Joe Hendersons Double Rainbow record of Jobim songs, on which his soloing is also so joyous and swinging. At the time, many musicians were addressing polyrhythms and compound rhythmsin other words, the idea that you can go between different rhythmic feels and apply rhythmic feels that run counter to each other. A lot of Afro-Latin music, for example, contains a contrasting two-feel and three-feel, superimposes two or three rhythmic grooves on top of each other. This happens a lot on Inventions and Dimensions, and Herbies interest in this type of music has influenced many musicians.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


V.S.O.P.: Darts

Track

Darts

Artist

Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), and Wayne Shorter (tenor sax, soprano sax)

CD

VSOP: The Quintet (Columbia 34976)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax, soprano sax).

Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA, July 16, 1977 or Civic Theatre, San Diego, July 18, 1977

Herbie--vsop

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Herbie takes one his most exuberant solos on Darts" from V.S.O.P.The Quintet, which is a live album recorded in 1977. Im not sure if hes playing an acoustic piano or sort of a Yamaha Grand, but what hes playing is so sparkling. He starts this swirling rhythmic figure, and then he goes up higher and higher on the keyboard. and when he gets ready to explode, he hits the climax, sort of waits for a second, and then BOOM, he hits you with his line. The swing is ferocious. I saw V.S.O.P. play live, too, and it definitely had a different feel than the Miles Davis Quintet. One thing that struck me is how much heavier Tony Williams sounded in the ensemblehe was using much bigger drums, and he was just playing heavier, because hed been playing a heavier style of music. The way that they had to adapt to Tonys style made it less subtle, but it was still very powerful to hear it live. Now, I love Tony Williams. He was an incredible genius. Sometimes with Miles, Tony would drop out, and then sneak back in. His dynamic range was broad, which gave the other musicians that much more to work with. Also, playing with Freddie Hubbard was different than playing with Miles, because it seemed, especially from a group perspective, to get into a more typical head-solo thing. Miles had a way of injecting a certain magic into how the group played, because everything was always on edge.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Miles Davis: Hand Jive

Track

Hand Jive

Artist

Miles Davis (trumpet)

CD

Nefertiti (Columbia 65681)

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Musicians:

Miles Davis (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax, soprano sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums).

Composed by Tony Williams

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Recorded: New York, June 22, 1967

Miles_davis--nefertiti

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

I have many favorites from the period that Herbie spent with Miles, and one of them is Hand Jive," a song from Nefertiti. Its one of the records where Herbie solos just using one line, with no left hand comping and no supporting chordsvery different from the My Funny Valentine type of playing with Miles. It sounds like Herbie is a horn player playing single lines like Wayne and Miles, or also the Lennie Tristano thing of playing lines with no chords. Theres something really stark about that, and yet, coupled with whats happening underneath it, with Ron Carters basslines and the fluidity of Tony Williams playing, those lines just seem to be bobbing-and-weaving throughout. The harmony can be very vague. So the feeling is very open but always swinging, rhythmically strong. Im not sure whether Herbie was playing that way because Miles suggested it to him, Dont play chords so much, play lines, for textural reasons. But whoever came up with the idea, I guess it doesnt matter. The texture is so different from most of the other recordings of his that I love.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Jaco Pastorius (with Herbie Hancock): Liberty City

Track

Liberty City

Artist

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass)

CD

Word Of Mouth (Warner Bros 3535)

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Musicians:

Jaco Pastorius (electric bass), 'Toots' Thielemans (harmonica), Herbie Hancock (piano, keyboards), Peter Erskine (drums),

Bobby Thomas, percussion, Othello Molineaux, steel drums, Leroy Williams, steel drums

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Composed by Jaco Pastorius

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Recorded: Florida, Los Angeles & New York, August 1980

Jaco--word_of_mouth

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

I really enjoy Liberty City from Jaco Pastorius second record, Word of Mouth. Its a big band arrangement where Jaco is playing all his stuff, but Herbie is soloing exuberantly all over it, on top of it, underneath it, hearing all this stuff behind him and really going for it. I remember buying this, putting it on, and listening to it over and over. It has Toots Thielemans, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine...the feel is so good. Especially in that period, Jacos style was so fresh, combining virtuosity with total taste, and such a good rhythmic feel, defining a new sound for the electric bassyou hear Herbie react to and be inspired by it, as he so often was by other people, while at the same time being supportive. You could pick selections from Jacos first record, Jaco Pastorius, where Herbie played on "Speak Like A Child" among other compositions. Its very telling that when Jaco asked Herbie Hancock to be part of his first record and subsequent ones, because he knew that Herbie would add his own unique thing to the music.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner

Track

The Prisoner

Artist

Herbie Hancock (piano, keyboards)

CD

The Prisoner (Blue Note 25649)

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (piano, keyboards), Johnny Coles (trumpet), Garnett Brown (trombone), Tony Studd (bass trombone), Hubert Laws (flute), Jerome Richardson (reeds), Joe Henderson (tenor sax, alto flute), Buster Williams (bass), Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums).

Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 18, 1969

Herbie--the_prisoner

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

On The Prisoner I love the contrast between what the ensemble is playing on the structure of the piece and the free playing in the solos. Herbie is soloing around A-minor, but it isnt clearly defined. The solo goes through all these different permutations, and at one point Herbie starts a rhythmic figure that he starts to repeat, then sets up the ensemble to come back in, and its so perfect, and then the band comes in with their thing, and Herbies built the tension, built the tension, and then at some point, BOOM, it explodes, and youre on to the next solo. Theres a perfect marriage between the arrangement and the uninhibited soloing. Of course, Joe Henderson is a big part of that, because he solos with such varietyhe allows the setup to happen, and then just goes for it. Both Herbie and Joe combine a lot of different styles on their solos on this piece. Theyre playing out, then they go from an out idea (out in the sense that its an almost atonal-nontonal thing) to something that goes into like a honking blues thing, which then goes into a really complicated line, and then transmogrifies into this other type of texture. Its just going from one thing to another to another. It sounds totally logical, but emotionally, when youre hearing it, its really gripping.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


Lee Morgan: Ceora

Track

Ceora

Artist

Lee Morgan (trumpet)

CD

Cornbread (Blue Note 84222)

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Musicians:

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), Billy Higgins (drums).

Composed by Lee Morgan

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 18, 1965

Albumcoverleemorgan-cornbread

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

Playing introductions is an art and Herbie's intro to Ceora" features his expressive touch and beautiful chord voicings. Each chord is played with a different amount of pressure to give it a slightly different sound. Herbie uses the pedal to coax a variety of timbres out of the piano. His solo on this tune is also very subtle. He uses texture and space to give his playing an unhurried elegance and also adds some surprising chord substitutions in his solo. This is one of many wonderful examples of Herbie's depth as an accompanist.

Reviewer: Uri Caine


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