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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On Hancock

posted by on October 25 at 10:05 AM

To get to the substance of Herbie Hancock’s style (and the Hancock I have in mind is the one before the 70s—the real Hancock) one must hear it dialectically. What he resolves, subsumes, picks up, cancels out is the opposition between a father and a son, between Bud Powell and Bill Evans. Powell’s playing expressed force, will, strength; Evan’s expressed beauty, sensitivity, delicacy. Not that Powell had none of his son’s defining qualities (“Parisian Thoroughfare” is one of the most beautiful and precious compositions in the jazz canon); and nor did Evan’s lack all the force of his father, as his work on Charles Mingus’s East Coasting reveals. But, for the most part, Powell had too much strength (listen to his muscular “Bud on Bach” or the end of “Glass Enclosure”—a structure which his force smashes up in a fit of insanity); and Evans often had so little force and too much sensitivity that it was like looking at a beautiful boy who is so hurt, who is on the verge of crying (“My Man’s Gone Now,” “Turn Out The Stars”). In Hancock this opposition meets its resolution. His playing has the force of a lion and the delicacy of flowers—the shumba among the roses.

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On the contrary, Hancock gets really interesting in the '70s, with Sextant, Mwandishi, , Crossings, Thrust, etc. He opened up to electronics with more gusto than almost any other jazz musician, and doing so added kaleidoscopic colors to his already multi-hued tone palette. In the '70s, Hancock became both funkier and more cosmic, and in the process he helped to expand jazz's horizons.

One can enjoy his '60s work and his later explorations; it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.

Posted by opalescent arcs | October 25, 2006 1:37 PM

Add Head Hunters to that litany, too.

Posted by opalescent arcs | October 25, 2006 1:39 PM

Back in the late 80s, I saw Herbie Hancock on the street and told him I really liked his work.

Posted by fan of joe zawinul | October 25, 2006 2:36 PM

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