Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner


The Prisoner


Herbie Hancock (piano, keyboards)


The Prisoner (Blue Note 25649)

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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


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 18, 1969


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 isn’t 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 it’s so perfect, and then the band comes in with their thing, and Herbie’s built the tension, built the tension, and then at some point, BOOM, it explodes, and you’re on to the next solo. There’s 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 variety—he 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. They’re playing out, then they go from an out idea (out in the sense that it’s 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. It’s just going from one thing to another to another. It sounds totally logical, but emotionally, when you’re hearing it, it’s really gripping.

Reviewer: Uri Caine

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