As a jazz pianist Herbie Hancock has had a great effect on my life. His voicings of chords, his improvisation, his memorable compositions, his longevity, and his ability to adapt to different styles never ceases to amaze me. Hearing Herbie plays is like looking at your ultimate goal being achieved by someone else. He is the standard. On Maiden Voyage Herbie Hancock creates a Jazz classic that has stood the test of time and is one of his finest works. With the help of Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, and George Colemen on tenor, this quintet performs these five Herbie Hancock compositions to perfection. So without further a do, let’s begin with the title track “Maiden Voyage”
“Maiden Voyage” is arguable the most popular tune on this record. It begins with Herbie Hancock playing his beautiful sus chords while the bass and drums come in. The build up leads beautifully into the melody which is played beautifully and in unison by both Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman. Listening to this tune you get a classic jazz, cocktail lounge feel, but when the solos come in it’s anything but. George Coleman comes in and develops a melodic idea and begins to play some fairly modern melodic lines. He has some screethes, plays fast, and even has short rhythmic ideas, which contrast the tone of the head. Freddie Hubbard continues this style when he solos playing melodic ideas and developing them and playing loud, high, and aggressive tones. The highlight of Hubbard’s solo in my opinion is when he plays a flury of notes and just lets them “hang there” the band picks up on this and follow along interacting with him. The solos conclude with Herbie Hancock soloing using a little of everything in his solo. He implements elements of modal jazz, blues, bebop, sus voicings, this solo is gold. The song concludes by playing the melody again and then fading out with Freddie Hubbard playing on his trumpet.
The next tune is called “The Eye of The Hurricane” and I can tell why. It has so many different working parts. It has a frenetic feel to it yet the melody is played perfectly and sets a great foundation to this tune. This tune is another fine example of a tune that has a classic jazz, cocktail lounge feel, but once the solos start it’s really a quiet adventurous tune. Freddie Hubbard solos first and I love how Freddie Hubbard just goes for it with loud elephant noises, playing with different modes, it’s just so brilliant and daring what he does on this tune. Coleman reminds me alot of Coltrane on this solo he plays with that similar style. This is probably because he’s is testing out different tones and playing “out”. Herbie Hancock as well just flat out kills it playing so quickly and effortlessly. He is just letting the notes fly right out of the piano, after hearing this tune it leaves you with a feeling of bewilderment and amazment. What else can be done? What more can be explored?
Lucky for us there are still a few more tunes to explore. “Little One” takes a break from all the “madness” and slows things down with a beautiful ballad. You an hear the slower tempo, and if you listen closely, you can tell Tony Williams is using brushes in the beginning and switches to sticks for the solos. The solos stretch out a bit more, but still it has a slower feel then the other tunes. It sounds so beautiful and my favorite solo is definitely Herbie’s. He plays so elegantly and builds up his dynamics as he progresses. Also, it’s good to hear the band quiet down when Herbie plays switching their dynamics to make Herbie’s solo sound even better. Also, it should be noted that Ron Carter has his first solo on this album here. You can hear the light drumming, a few chords by Herbie, and then they conclude the song with by playing the head once more.
Next is “Survival Of The Fittest” which is another long, and daring tune. The solos are very out there, and there are pre rehearsed breaks and transitions. It’s nice to hear Tony Williams solo a bit since he hasn’t really had a solo on this record so far. It’s really quite shocking that this album was recorded so long ago it sounds just as modern as a lot of stuff out jazz wise today.
The final tune on this album is “Dolphin Dance” which, similar to the title track “Maiden Voyage”, is now considered a Jazz standard. It’s just such a classic tune, it has a nice singable melody, it’s medium swing, and the solos are fantastic. Freddie Hubbard starts things off with nice, melodic ideas. The majority of his solo is just as singable as the original melody itself. After Hubbard, Coleman takes his solo and picks up where Hubbard left off start with a slow melodic solo and then pushing it forward with a flurry of running eight lines. When Herbie solos everything gets real quiet for a moment and continues to get louder as he continues to solo. Lot’s of classic licks are played by Herbie here lots of sequential ideas near the end. This solo is Jazz 101.
Herbie Hancock, and particularly this album will have an impact on me for the rest of my life. It’s an essential album to own and for anyone who wants to get started on Jazz this would be an excellent place to start. This album shows you what standard jazz is and the solos and progressions show how far jazz music and improvisation can go. Seriously, listen to this album you are only doing yourself a disservice by not doing so. Thankfully, Herbie Hancock is still alive so if he is in your town you must try and go listen to him. Trust me, you will be in for a memorable performance.