The Jazz.com Blog
December 18, 2007 · 0 comments
Some of Herbie Hancock’s finest performances never made it on to CD. I vividly recall hearing him at the opening of Kimball’s East back in 1989, slashing and burning his way through Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster covering his every move. Most of the luminaries in the San Francisco jazz scene was in attendance that night, and Hancock seemed determined to show the locals his best stuff.
I heard Hancock approach this same high level on other occasions where recordings may have been made but never released: a free-and-easy jaunt on “Autumn Leaves” with a pick-up band at a benefit for the KJAZ radio station (now defunct – its bandwidth currently occupied by pathetic disco deejays); some exceptional piano work at a benefit for Conrad Silvert (a few tracks of this were released, but much of it is still sitting in a Sony vault somewhere); and exciting give-and-take in a trio with Tony Williams and Ron Carter at the Berkeley Jazz Festival. But even when Hancock set down some serious tracks in a recording studio, the music didn’t always reach your local Sam Goody or Tower Records. I faced almost insurmountable challenges in securing a copy of the fascinating solo project, Dedication, released by Hancock in Japan, but held out of the US market for “business reasons.” I finally managed to snag a copy, but I needed letters of transit from Peter Lorre and a sockful of yen notes. Another Japanese solo release, The Piano was kept out of overseas markets for twenty-five years. (Who makes these decisions?)
Despite these limitations and oversights, jazz fans still have access to many great Herbie Hancock recordings made over the years. He is responsible for some fifty leader dates and countless sideman sessions, encompassing classic Blue Note LPs, historic performances with Miles Davis, the famous V.S.O.P live recordings, fusion mega-hits, and occasional gigs with everyone from Milton Nascimento to Wynton Marsalis. Picking through this wealth of music in order to select twelve essential tracks presented a challenge. But I gave it my best shot. You can view my picks and second guess my choices at jazz.com's latest installment of the The Dozens.
At the same time, jazz.com is publishing Alan Kurtz’s discriminating choices for twelve blue & sentimental tenor sax ballads. You don’t need letters of transit to enjoy these. But dimming the lights and pouring a couple of gin and tonics for you and a special someone might assist you in this particular musical appreciation lesson.
You can check out more installments of The Dozens here.
This blog entry posted by Ted Gioia