2 LP on 1 CD
## 1 - 5 'Maiden Voyage' - rec. May 17, 1965
Less overtly adventurous than its predecessor, Empyrean Isles, Maiden Voyage nevertheless finds Herbie Hancock at a creative peak. In fact, it's arguably his finest record of the '60s, reaching a perfect balance between accessible, lyrical jazz and chance-taking hard bop. By this point, the pianist had been with Miles Davis for two years, and it's clear that Miles' subdued yet challenging modal experiments had been fully integrated by Hancock. Not only that, but through Davis, Hancock became part of the exceptional rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams, who are both featured on Maiden Voyage, along with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and tenor saxophonist George Coleman. The quintet plays a selection of five Hancock originals, many of which are simply superb showcases for the group's provocative, unpredictable solos, tonal textures and harmonies. While the quintet takes risks, the music is lovely and accessible, thanks to Hancock's understated, melodic compositions and the tasteful group interplay. All of the elements blend together to make Maiden Voyage a shimmering, beautiful album that captures Hancock at his finest as a leader, soloist and composer.
All Music Guide
## 6 - 11 'Speak Like A Child' - rec. March 6 & 9, 1968
Between 1965's Maiden Voyage and 1968's Speak Like a Child, Herbie Hancock was consumed with his duties as part of the Miles Davis Quintet, who happened to be at their creative and popular peak during those three years. When Hancock did return to a leadership position on Speak Like a Child, it was clear that he had assimilated not only the group's experiments, but also many ideas Miles initially sketched out with Gil Evans. Like Maiden Voyage, the album is laidback, melodic and quite beautiful, but there are noticeable differences between the two records. Hancock's melodies and themes have become simpler and more memorable, particularly on the title track, but that hasn't cut out room for improvisation. Instead, he has found a balance between accessible themes and searching improvisations that work a middle ground between post-bop and rock. Similarly, the horns and reeds are unconventional. He has selected three parts - Thad Jones' flugelhorn, Peter Phillips' bass trombone, Jerry Dodgion's alto flute - with unusual voicings, and he uses them for tonal texture and melodic statements, not solos. The rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Mickey Roker keeps things light, subtle, and forever shifting, emphasizing the hybrid nature of Hancock's original compositions. But the key to Speak Like a Child is in Hancock's graceful, lyrical playing and compositions, which are lovely on the surface and provocative and challenging upon closer listening.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Speak Like a Child is Herbie Hancock's first album as a leader for Blue Note since Maiden Voyage, and it represents a further extension of discoveries Herbie made during that preceding journey. It is related-to Maiden Voyage, Herbie notes, "in a way none of my previous albums were related to each other. That set was a sort of jumping off point for me, and I go on from there here."
I asked him for specifics. "What I was into then, and have been thinking about more and more," Herbie answered, "was the concept that there is a type of music in between jazz and rock. It has elements of both but retains and builds on its own identity. Its jazz elements include improvisation and it's like rock in that it emphasizes particular kinds of rhythmic patterns to work off of.
"This album," he continued, "also is an extension of Maiden Voyage in terms of my use of simple, singable melodies. Now what's different in Speak Like a Child as a whole has to do, first of all, with harmony. For the most part, the harmonies in these numbers are freer in the sense that they're not so easily identifiable chordally in the conventional way. I'm more concerned with sounds than chords, and so I voice the harmonies to provide a wider spectrum of colors that can be contained within the traditional chord progressions. In much of the album, there are places where you could call the harmonies by any one of four designations, but no one designation would really include everything involved. That's how I write; that's how it comes out.
"Similarly," Herbie went on, "on those tracks with the horns, I was more interested in sounds than in definite chordal patterns. I tried to give the horns notes that would give color and body to the sounds I heard as I wrote. Some of this way of thinking and writing comes from listening to Gil Evans and Oliver Nelson and from having worked with Thad Jones from time to time. Certainly one of the ways I'm going to go from here on is writing for large groups."
The first number, Riot, was recorded originally by Miles Davis. "When I listened to the record," Herbie said, "it sounded like a riot to me with regard to the emotions being expressed. This version, however, is less riotous. It does contain an element of turmoil, but it's there more as an undercurrent than on the surface. Incidentally, when I wrote this song, I wrote the melody first and then added the harmonies I wanted underneath. I suppose I heard them vaguely in my head from the beginning; I just had to find them."
Speak Like a Child, as a title, Herbie explains, "came from Frank Wolff, and it's a result of a picture that a friend of mine, David Bythewood, took. I dug it so much I brought it to Frank for use as the cover for this album. Frank said it was so evocative a photograph because of the innocence and naivete in it. And so I started thinking about the quality of innocence while writing this song. Clearly the music doesn't sound too much like what's going on today-war, riots, the stock market getting busted up. And the reason it doesn't, I realized, is that I'm optimistic. I believe in hope and peace and love. It's not that I'm blind to what's going on, but I feel this music is a forward look into what could be a bright future. The philosophy represented in this number, and to a large extent in the album as a whole, is childlike. But not childish. By that I mean there are certain elements of childhood we lose and wish we could have back-purity, spontaneity. When they do return to us, we're at our best. So what I'm telling the world is: 'Speak like a child. Think and feel in terms of hope and the possibilities of making ourselves less impure."
Herbie also points out that Speak Like a Child is a sectional piece and has no definite tonal centers. It should also be noted that the attractive young lady on the cover is Herbie's fiancee, Gigi Meixner.
First Trip is by Ron Carter and both the title and the tune itself strike Herbie as having a sense of childhood. "When I played the melody," Herbie adds "I didn't play it straight. I made some small changes, played a little with the time, and staggered some of the phrases. As for the time, I played some phrases in five, some in seven. It's the kind of thing I've become used to working with Tony Williams and Ron Carter so now that kind of approach to time just comes out naturally as I play." Herbie also spoke about the rhythmic feeling of the album as a whole. "I've been trying for a long time to work on swinging, to feel more and more comfortable in terms of swinging. And of all the albums I've done, this to me swings the most."
As for the harmonies of First Trip, "this tune too has the kind of progressions that go in and out of the traditional dividing lines," Herbie emphasized. "The emotions here and in other pieces require freer harmonic developments and as a result, we get away from finite structural and chordal limitations." Ron Carter wrote the song originally for his little boy, Ron Jr. At the time, his son was going to a nursery school where the kids who behaved well in class came home on the first trip. The ones who acted up had to wait for the second trip. "My son," Ron remembers, "was elated that day, and the song is about how he felt and is also a little tribute from me to him for one of the times he did indeed behave very well."
Toys, Herbie observes, "originally came about because I was thinking of writing a blues without it being a blues-a tune with the colors of the blues but not the form. Like Blues for Pablo. Some of the techniques in the writing of it I think I've gotten from Gil Evans. There are times, for instance, when I sacrifice the vertical for the horizontal structure in going from one chord to another a few bars later, and the reason is to allow certain instruments to play a melodic line even though that line may involve some harmonic clashes. But I make sure those clashes have their own kind of validity and body. There are also, as in Riot and some of the other pieces, carefully conceived contrasts in dynamics."
Goodbye to Childhood reflects, Herbie says, "that particular quality of sadness you feel at childhood being gone. In the writing of it, I again didn't think about what the chords were. I had to figure out what they were afterwards."
The Sorcerer, originally written for Miles Davis, receives its title, Herbie smiles, "because Miles is a sorcerer. His whole attitude, the way he is, is kind of mysterious. I know him well but there's still a kind of musical mystique about him. His music sounds like witchcraft. There are times I don't know where his music comes from. It doesn't sound like he's doing it. It sounds like it's coming from somewhere else."
Speaking of the album as a whole, Herbie concluded: "All the sounds in these pieces are a product of everything I've learned, particularly in recent work with Gil Evans and, of course, in the five years I've been with Miles and the other men in the band. I feel I have to go on and write more for horns, explore more possibilities of textures. There are things I hear in my head that I don't often hear in other people's music, and I want to get more of those down. And I keep hearing new things and I have to find out what value they have, how they workout."
It sounds clear to me that Speak Like a Child is an impressive further stage in the evolution of Herbie Hancock as writer and player. From the first time I heard him, I felt Herbie had a singular quality of incisive, searching lyricism. And as his experience has deepened and become more diversified, his music has become both more personal and more challenging. In Speak Like a Child, Herbie Hancock has created a durably pleasurable montage of those elements of childhood which remain in people who continue to be responsive, spontaneous, open to hope and to that sense of wonder that is essential to being fully alive.