I owe this week’s musical obsession to a suggestion by my manager at Levi’s. I hadn’t heard much new music in a while, so when she suggested I give a listen to Herbie Hancock, I made a mental note to follow through. I was more than pleased with what I heard.
Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters
Released in 1973, Head Hunters is often called a key moment in Herbie Hancock’s career as a composer and musician. The 40-minute album features only 4 songs, and it plays like an epic. Each lengthy exploration is a journey into the heart of a single groove. Opener “Chameleon” showcases a bass synth-line that at first listen isn’t very captivating, but with the addition of an equally simple drum beat only a few bars in, the song becomes endlessly funky and head-nod worthy. Hancock is a master at building a composition from the ground up and skillfully deconstructing or pivoting on a groove to intrigue the listener further.
Charles Mingus – Mingus Moves
The discovery of Herbie Hancock led me to search for related artists. While the roots of Mingus Moves are a little more traditionally jazz than Head Hunters, its songs still veer, twist, and turn with savagely exciting solos, like the piano on “Wee”, or the flute on “Newcomer”. The entire album plays with an excitement for life and music itself, on “Opus 3”, a midtempo saunter turns into a high-energy saxophone-led tumbleturn and catches the listener off guard.
Joni Mitchell – Mingus
Following Charles Mingus’ trail led me back to one of my favorite singer-songwriters and her 1979 album produced by the jazz man himself. Mingus became the last album Charles Mingus would work on, as he died during the production. The album turned into a tribute by Joni Mitchell to her friend and late colleague. The album features freely composed Mingus explorations with lyrics and melodies written by Joni Mitchell. Mitchell impresses with clear, intentional, and jazzy vocal lines which fit with ease into the creatively arranged tunes. On “God Must Be A Boogie Man”, a tightly strummed acoustic guitar and double bass carefully intertwine to create a unique counterpart to Joni Mitchell’s classic 3 octave range.