Monday, 20 September 2010

Affecting albums - Takin' Off - Herbie Hancock

(Click on the links in the song titles to be taken to Spotify for a listen)

Albums can be great for many reasons - some create a magnificent statement as a whole, some can have one or two great tunes that will live forever, and some have a collection of great moments.

Takin' Off, Herbie Hancock's debut album, is great for all three reasons. As a whole, it is a magnificent showcase of jazz, with a front line that swings hard and blends perfectly together, playing some classic tunes. Both Watermelon Man and Driftin' are classic 60s jazz tunes, so cool and bluesy in their construction. And as for moments - Freddie Hubbard's solo on Watermelon Man has to be close to the most perfect solo ever captured on tape. From the opening moments of half-valve action, building to a magnificent crescendo and fall off at the end - a minute and a half of magic. Hancock's solo on Driftin' is also a masterpiece.

What makes this album so special is that none of the lead players seem out to prove anything. They are assured in their work, happy to let the music speak for itself without them imposing themselves on it. In particular, Dexter Gordon on tenor sax is very sparing with his notation, hardly any long quick runs, which helps to give the album it's assured laid back feel.

The sound of Freddie Hubbard's trumpet is simply mesmerizing for most of the album - in turns velvety, hard, ringing, and honey-like, you just can't will yourself away from it.

Even people who aren't necessarily jazz aficionados will enjoy this magnificent recording. I'm still trying to get Freddie's sound to come out of my horn - a noble but fruitless task.

Takin' Off is available on iTunes, or from Amazon.

Cheers for now, from
A View Over the Bell

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