Monday, August 15, 2005

back to the future

Herbie Hancock - Rain Dance

Just look at that picture - a tribal rain dance in space. I think that says everything you need to know about this track!

There's a Doctor on synth (Dr. Patrick Gleeson, no less), sending stabs of noise over the top of a looped groove of synthesised tones and Herbie Hancock plays a bizarre solo on a ring modulated Rhodes piano. The mix of traditional jazz sounds and futuristic textures are what that picture is about - the future is now, yet the music still harks back to afro-funk rhythms on each track on the album.

The album sounds like it was recorded tomorrow, but it was recorded in 1973.

The Herbie Hancock sextet was known as the "Mwandishi" band because of the Swahili names each band member was given. They recorded two albums for Warner before releasing "Sextant" on Columbia in 1973. The music recorded is obviously influenced by the experiences many of the band members had working on Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" sessions. "Bitches..." was miles' attempt to "get to the young kids" by incorporating elements of rock and funk to create a new type of jazz, and the members of the Mwandishi band tried to bend this for their own aims.

The Mwandishi band was legendarily unsuccessful in their day. Their tour of Europe in 1971 was renowned for the fact that the band never slept, travelling ludicrous distances to make a gig. They travelled together in a van with a PA system, drums, amplifiers and the keyboard rig (including a huge ARP synthesiser). There are tales of the band playing at festivals for 4 hours - and then starting the second song. Herbie Hancock complained that he noticed that his friends would play everybody else's records other than his.
"My intention at the time was to play music to be listened to with undivided attention; but how many people have the time to approach music that way?"

So Herbie Hancock released the incredible "Headhunters" album, ultra-funky and enormously successful.

Herbie Hancock is still going strong doing some great stuff, looking amazing for his age, still pushing himself to do something interesting. But for some reason the brief period of the Mwandishi band, from 1970 to 1973, gets short shrift, especially if you look at his biography.

Try to find the time to listen to this properly - it will repay your patience a thousand times!

Buy Sextant
Visit Herbie Hancock

No comments: