V.S.O.P.: One of a Kind


One of a Kind




V.S.O.P.: The Quintet (Columbia 34976)

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

Composed by Freddie Hubbard


Recorded: live a the Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA, July 16, 1977 and San Diego Civic Theater, San Diego, CA, July 18, 1977


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

If you weren't a jazz fan at the time, you can hardly imagine the stir that this band made back in 1977. Newsweek featured the V.S.O.P. quintet in a cover story, pronouncing that Jazz Is Back. Of course, jazz hadn't gone anywhere, although it was a homecoming of sorts for some of the V.S.O.P. band members who had focused their energies on fusion music for most of the decade. I remember the excitement at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, where much of the resulting V.S.O.P. album was recorded in concert, a palpable sense that jazz history was being made on stage. In retrospect, this 1977 revival of the great 1960s Miles Davis Quintet (with Freddie Hubbard standing in for Miles, who definitely Was Not Back) did signal that fusion music was no longer a hot new thing. But predictions of widespread public interest in hard bop were premature, to put it mildly. And did the V.S.O.P. band live up to the hype? Certainly the individual members of the quintet exude tremendous energy on "One of a Kind." Hubbard takes the first solo, and shows why even today he must be on any list of the hottest trumpeters in the history of the music. Shorter follows and he gets into an esoteric bag with Hancock. Carter and Williams constantly stoke the fire. Maybe the band is trying a bit too hard . . the proceedings remind me of the NBA All Star Game where the heroics seem a little too staged. No, the V.S.O.P. reunion won't make you forget the great Blue Note sides these same musicians made in the 1960s, but it is much more than just a historical artifact. Pound for pound, no band of the decade had more raw talent on the stage, and if it had stayed together for a few years, and not just for a Very Special One-Time Performance, V.S.O.P. might have really shaken things up.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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