Herbie Hancock — Crossings
(Warner Bros 9362-47542-2, 1972/2001, CD)
by Mike McLatchey, Published 2017-11-02
I spent some time last year going through The Complete Columbia Albums Collection of Herbie Hancock. I bought it hoping that there would be some gems I didn't know about after Man-Child and ended up being vastly disappointed. I'm still not sure if most of these 70s and 80s works were quite bad, ill-advised attempts to marry innovation and popularity, or just way over my head. So it has been a bit of a relief to turn back to the man's early electric period where his finest work was accomplished. This period is perhaps a bit veiled from history as Hancock and his bands (Mwandishi here) were performing live and improvising considerably and so the albums of the time tend to be distillations of that work. Through this period he transitioned out of his early Blue Note jazz works, started doing soundtrack work, and crossed over into electric jazz, basically along the same time period of his mentor Miles Davis. He did the funky Fat Albert Rotunda, which was largely shorter, more focused pieces but started shifting more radically into free electric jazz with the Mwandishi album and then finishing up his early period on Warner by releasing the masterpiece known as Crossings. To this day I think Crossings is an unusual work, almost hard to grasp at times, for this write up I played it twice to get a bit more of a grip on it. I found strangely enough that a lot of this work seemed to parallel Soft Machine and Nucleus with an electric jazz that had a lot of more composed moments and quite a bit of twisting and turning. This music on his live parallel stretched out a bit more (“Water Torture” in particular), but the studio recordings had an almost fragile feel as if Herbie hadn't quite charted out his path yet outside of what Miles was doing. Crossings ends up being a really dense work, perhaps dominated by the great “Sleeping Giant” suite, a title fairly amusing when you think what woke up next. He may have not completely left the shadow of Miles Davis behind here but he was about to.
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more