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JJ 06/70: Herbie Hancock – The Prisoner

A review by Mike Shera, first published in Jazz Journal June 1970

Herbie Hancock’s excellent series of Blue Note albums continues with The Prisoner, where he has chosen to write for a nine- or eleven-piece group. His writing is fresh and inspiring, though not very close to that of Gil Evans, whose work he says he admires so much.

His aims are similar (often fairly simple melodies with complex chord struc­tures, played by unusual combinations of instruments) though the sound is very dif­ferent. Like Evans he leaves plenty of space for his soloists, Johnny Coles, Joe Henderson and Garnett Brown.

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The ideas behind the music are mostly con­cerned with Blacks, yet Hancock manages to convey the feelings without resorting to the ugly sounds of the ‘new thing’. I Have A Dream is, not unexpectedly, dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King.

The implica­tions of the title tune hardly need comment, whilst Buster Williams contrasts the fire of violence with the ‘water’ of Dr. King. The latter is also the ‘he’ of He Who Lives In Fear, whilst Hancock sees The Promise of the Sun as freedom to all living things, but not as yet to Blacks.

Non-commercial new recordings from Blue Note are not that frequent that one can afford to pass up one so good as this.
Mike Shera

Discography
(a) I Have A Dream; The Prisoner (19 min) – (b) Firewater; (a) He Who Lives in Fear; (b) Promise Of The Sun (22 min)
(a) Johnny Coles (fgl-h); Garnett Brown (tbn); Tony Studd (bs-tbn); Herbert Laws (flt); Jerome Richardson (bs-clt); Joe Henderson (ten/flt); Herbie Hancock (pno/elec-pno); Buster Williams (bs); Albert “Tootle” Heath (dm). NYC. 18, 21, 23/4/69. (b) Jack Jeffers (bs-tbn); Romeo Penque (bs-clt) added; Richardson also plays (flt) same dates.
(Blue Note BST 84321 47s 6d)

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