A double-milestone year for jazz, 2001 marked the 75th anniversary of the births of both Miles Davis and John Coltrane. With that in mind, Herbie Hancock went on tour with a quintet modeled after his V.S.O.P. bands of the '70s and '80s and the Tribute to Miles band of the '90s, which in turn were modeled after the 1965-1968 Miles Davis Quintet. The question this disc proposes: Can you go home yet again? Hancock preferred to dodge that one, saying that he was attempting to push the music onward in the Davis/Coltrane spirit of adventure rather than play for nostalgia. But essentially, despite the often unblinkingly hard-nosed soloing and the sometimes radical reworking of the old tunes, the conception of this idiom is that of Miles, and Michael Brecker's often brilliant, searching tenor sax work owes its soul to the example of Trane. Although the quintet's Los Angeles gig on October 11, 2001, was rather disappointing, the Toronto concert recorded here was a big improvement, with two weeks of roadwork evidently having the desired tightening effect. Though Hancock's piano gradually became more abstract and disconnected with its surroundings over the years, here he is in touch with his colleagues. Brecker provides the most fervent individual statement with an unaccompanied rendition of "Naima" that amounts to a virtual encyclopedia of tenor saxophone technique. Roy Hargrove does a serviceable job on trumpet and flьgelhorn, trying to fill some heavy shoes, and as accomplished as the rhythm team of John Patitucci (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) is, you miss the irreplaceable combustion of Ron Carter and especially the late Tony Williams (compare the original Davis recording of "The Sorcerer" with this inward, less dynamic, less driving version). The most strikingly reworked cover tune is a slow, drawn-out, mournful take on "Impressions," almost an elegy for Coltrane, and Brecker delivers the eulogy with fire in the belly. There is new material from Hargrove ("The Poet"), Brecker ("D Trane"), and the three headliners ("Misstery"), none of which expands much beyond the parameters of the Davis and Coltrane models. While this quintet does not kick over old boundaries, it does make good, uncompromisingly intelligent music.
- Richard S. Ginell (All Music Guide)
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When we first embarked on this journey to celebrate the 75" Anniversaries of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, we decided to take the assignment very seriously and to find a clear perspective from which to honor them. It occurred to me that the reason that we're celebrating their contributions after their deaths is that these two men represented some of the best qualities of the human spirit, qualities that went beyond the notes they played. They were models of courage, daring, and fearlessness to explore new territories, to create new pathways -in music. They also encouraged young musicians to continue to take chances. When I was in the Miles Davis quintet early in my career, Miles used to tell us that he paid us to try new things on the bandstand, not to prepare it in our rooms beforehand. Jazz is about capturing the moment. Because these musicians created new perspectives and new directions in music, we decided that if we just took the arrangements that they were famous for and improvised on them, the audience might be happy in a lot of ways because they'd be hearing what was familiar to them But if Miles Davis and John Coltrane were here, they would not be very happy with this safe kind of approach because that's not what they're about. So we decided that the best way to truly honor their work was to create our own new way of looking at the compositions, to allow new freedoms within the structures in order to stimulate and provoke spontaneity within the group. We're not just playing the original chords of these pieces, but really moving beyond that using our powers of concentration and our hearts and our trust in the ability of the others to respond to whatever happens and work outside the box. This is very much in keeping with what I believe to be the true spirit of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. And we picked the right people to accept this challenge - the band on this tour was like a supersonic plane. It was quite a ride.
- Herbie Hancock
It has been a privilege for me to join these wonderful musicians in celebrating the lives and music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, two visionaries who have had an incalculable' impact on jazz as well as all the arts. In high school, I heard my first John Coltrane record. Live at Birdland, featuring the John Coltrane Quartet. Although I had grown up listening to jazz, I had never heard anyone play that way. The intensity of the performances compelled me to listen to every Coltrane record I could get my hands on. With a rare humility, Coltrane dared to conduct his profound explorations in full view of the audience; his albums served as marvelous snapshots along the journey of Ms constantly evolving art. His work affected me so powerfully that it helped influence me to choose music as a life's endeavor. It was also in high school that I first became obsessed with Miles Davis when I discovered the records with Mites. Tony Warns, Ron Carter. George Coleman. and Herbie Hancock, especially the live record Four and More That's when I became a huge Herbie Hancock fan. As a pianist, composer, and innovator, Herbie has been an immense source of inspiration to me: On this tour we tried to shed new Night on some of the tunes written by or identified with Miles and Trane and we also brought h some original compositions written for the tour. "D Trane", my dedication to Coltrane. is loosely based on a West African clave rhythmic structure and was influenced by Coltrane's compositions that drew upon African music It was tremendous fun playing with this band. I've been fortunate to tour and record with Herbie many times over the years and every time I play with Mm I'm reminded, quite simply, that he is a genius. With Roy. there was amazing chemistry; he's like an old musical soul in a young body, a creative force who is the ideal trumpet player to pay tribute to Miles he's the real deal. John and Brian really made this a band each brought the highest level of creativity, virtuosity, and an infinite palette of colors to the music
- Michael Brecker
Miles Davis and John Coltrane have both been major influences on me. Coltrane has so much spirit in his playing. You can definitely hear the vibes from the Creator coming through when you listen to him. And Miles Davis to me is like a great poet. He was a master of using space and just playing all the right notes in the right places. So I felt fortunate to be invited to be a part of this tribute tour Every. performance was an adventure, Even though each night we played the same repertoire, something different happened every night. The tour started off strong and by the time we got into it, the music was Just soaring. It has been a great musical experience to play with this group of musicians. I've always been in awe of Herbie Hancock because he's such a big star and has crossed so many boundaries. The first time I played with him was sitting in with his trio in Ft. Worth when I was sixteen years old, I was so nervous that I could hardly play. "The Poet" was inspired by the Miles Davis quintet from the 1960s when they were getting into a sound that went beyond traditional structure, I also had Herbie in mind when I wrote the tune and, when I brought it to him, he reharmonized it and completely transformed it. I became a fan of Michael Brecker in high school when I used to love to play Michael and Randy Breaker's song "Some Skunk Funk". Maybe because his brother is a trumpet player, Michael knows how to play with trumpet players really well. During the tour, no matter what I did, Michael would always be right there with me. Often it felt like there was just one person playing. And John and Brian were just explosive, night after night The tour taught me that organization both on and off stage can make the music better because you don't have the stresses that most tours encounter. Being around Herbie is being around a real icon and you just hope some of it rubs off.
- Roy Hargrove