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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Then and Now: The Definitive Herbie Hancock

Verve 0602517809666




1. Maiden Voyage
2. Cantaloupe Island
3. Wiggle Waggle
4. Chameleon
5. St. Louis Blues (with special guest Stevie Wonder)
6. Chan's Song (Never Said)
7. River (featuring Corinne Bailey Rae)
8. Don't Explain (featuring Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan)
9. All Apologies
10. Watermelon Man
11. Rockit (live)
12. River (live) (featuring Joni Mitchell)

Herbie Hancock has appeared in so many different musical guises that it would take several albums to exemplify the rich variety of his work. So this new CD's sub-title is unjustified, as this is hardly "the definitive Herbie Hancock". Neverthless, the CD would make a useful introduction to any newcomer wanting to explore Herbie's work - or, at least, some aspects of it.

Certainly the first two tracks are an essential part of Hancock's output. The title-track of the 1965 album Maiden Voyage exemplifies one of the highspots of Herbie's career, although it would have been nice if this compilation had also included Dolphin Dance. And the previous year's Cantaloupe Island has become an undoubted jazz standard. Both tunes illustrate Herbie's abilty to write catchy themes which are also ideal for jazz improvisation. So, too, is Watermelon Man, although this is not the original version but a 1973 recording from the album Head Hunters.

Another example of poor choice is evident in Rockit, which is taken from a 2002 live album and is not the original recording, which entered the pop charts in 1983, when it was rightly seen as a ground-breaking piece of electronic jazz. I can't complain at the inclusion of St Louis Blues (from the 1998 CD Gershwin's World), as it includes the wondrous Stevie Wonder not only singing as melismatically as any opera singer but also playing the harmonica with such jazz sentiment that at first I thought it was Toots Thielemans.

Stevie Wonder is only one of several guest vocalists on the CD, which also contains two interpretations of Joni Mitchell's River - first by Corinne Bailey Rae and then by the composer herself in a previously-unreleased "bonus track". I have already expressed my doubts about the River album from which the first version is taken - and it seems excessive to include this watery song in two versions, even if Joni's own recording is new to the listener.

So this CD makes a passable introduction to Herbie Hancock, but it doesn't represent the full eclectic breadth of his music.

Tony Augarde



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