Herbie Hancock: "Mwandishi: The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings"

Ah, yes. Herbie Hancock. If all you know of this man is his 80's video and catchy tune "Rockit", you are SERIOUSLY missing the boat. You need to listen to some of his real jazz. Right Now!

I bought this album used at the 5 & 10 in Newtown, PA (which I believe is now a Starbucks. Figures). I was in high school, I think, a senior. I remember going and looking around with my sister Lisa, and I was pissed because she grabbed a sweet used copy of Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" soundtrack before I could. That was a real find for used CD's, as it's a double-disc AND it's got a sick songlist. I've always loved "Rain Song", and the version on that soundtrack is great. I would have paid the album price just for that tune. The funny thing is that up until that point I can't think of any moment I had ever seen or noticed my sister being remotely interested in Led Zeppelin! I didn't even know she knew who they were! And now she was snatching the bargain used CD purchase of the century right out from under me??!! WTF?! But whatever. She beat me to it. I'm not bitter.

So instead I had to "settle" for this. This fine masterpiece of musical intelligence from a jazz legend who's catalog I had only scratched the surface of. I was in band in high school (hey, I was a drummer, who were the cool ones, so SHUT IT!), and also worked as a tech for the jazz band during my junior year. That gave me some of my first exposure to Jazz, and what started my interest/passion in the genre, but I was still in Jazz 101 at that point in my life. My Herbie Hancock knowledge didn't expand much past Chameleon.

So when I put the CD on for the first time, I was immediately hit by the funky, head-bobbing beat of Wiggle-Waggle and I knew that this one was a winner. To this day, whenever I play this album, I can't help but do the head bob. Plus, how can you not smile when you say the name of the song. Wiggle-waggle. Wiggle-waggle. It's a funny word. Is it even a word? I don't know. But I digress...

Fat mama is another one that just lays on the heavy organ, with a similar feel to Deodato's take on Also Sprach Zarathustra (which I ended up buying for a quarter on vinyl at the Friends of Ithaca Library book sale. HUGE find! but that's a whole other post). It's another one that gets the head bob going and doesn't stop until you get to the end of the song.

Tell me a bedtime story is one of those songs that, if you can whistle, you will whistle for the entire day. The song gets stuck in your head. But like in a good way. It's just a nice, smooth, mellow tune.

OK so I won't go through all the songs, but I'll just tell you there's a lot more great stuff, including a song with "Fat Albert" in the title, so you know it's good! One of the things that I think Herbie does so well is makes something so intricate and complex seem so simple. If you listen to the tunes on these two discs on the surface, they're catchy hooks with a good beat. But if you listen a little more closely you can hear how much is actually going on to add texture to those simple hook lines and it makes the songs that much more enjoyable. It really is fascinating. It's the kind of music that sounds good if a jazz trio were covering it, but would sound SICK with a larger group, like 8 pieces or something.

you can tell that the designers of this collection intended to do a little bit of a contrast between the two discs. The second disc is much more mellow. I'll admit I don't listen to it nearly as much as disc 1. But it's still worth the purchase/listen. I assure you.

So at least take a minute or two and check out the audio samples in the link below, and feel free to share your thoughts on this wonderful collection.

And to my sister Lisa, I thank you again for grabbing that Led Zep CD so I was forced into getting this. without that happening, who knows how long it would have taken me to become as interested in Jazz as I am because of this album.


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