Herbie Hancock – Takin’ Off (1962/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 39:05 minutes | 1,54 GB
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Artwork: Front cover
At 21, Herbie Hancock was already a mature and well-traveled musician. He played Mozart with the Chicago Symphony at age 11, studied at Grinnell College and by age 20 played with Donald Byrd. Takin’ Off, his Blue Note debut, is a sophisticated showcase for Hancock’s ability as a group leader. Not as intellectually challenging or technically complex as his later recordings, the pianist nevertheless displays a restless imagination and technical verve. When he’s not striking off on funky, swinging solos, the backing chords are restrained an unassuming. He’s controlling the session and confident enough to let his soloists (Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and Dexter Gordon on tenor sax – both in fine, relaxed form) take the spotlight. From the now-legendary hit “Watermelon Man” to the reflective, noir-ish “Alone and I,” this is a great first album that foreshadows the greatness that would follow on his Blue Note masterworks, Empyrean Isles and Maiden Voyage.
Herbie Hancock’s debut as a leader, Takin’ Off, revealed a composer and pianist able to balance sophistication and accessibility, somewhat in the vein of Blue Note’s prototype hard bopper Horace Silver. Yet while Hancock could be just as funky and blues-rooted as Silver, their overall styles diverged in several ways: Hancock was lighter and more cerebral, a bit more adventurous in his harmonies, and more apt to break his solos out of a groove (instead of using them to create one). So even if, in retrospect, Takin’ Off is among Hancock’s most conventional albums, it shows a young stylist already strikingly mature for his age, and one who can interpret established forms with spirit and imagination. Case in point: the simple, catchy “Watermelon Man,” which became a Hancock signature tune and a jazz standard in the wake of a hit cover by Latin jazz star Mongo Santamaria. Hancock’s original version is classic Blue Note hard bop: spare, funky piano riffing and tight, focused solo statements. The other compositions are memorable and well-constructed too (if not quite hit material); all have their moments, but particular highlights include the ruminative ballad “Alone and I,” the minor-key “The Maze” (which features a little bit of free improvisation in the rhythm section), and the bluesy “Empty Pockets.” The backing group includes then up-and-coming trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Billy Higgins. All in all, Takin’ Off is an exceptional first effort, laying the groundwork for Hancock to begin pushing the boundaries of hard bop on his next several records.
01 – Watermelon Man
02 – Three Bags Full
03 – Empty Pockets
04 – The Maze
05 – Driftin’
06 – Alone And I
Mastered by Bernie Grundman at Bernie Grundman Mastering.
Herbie Hancock — piano
Freddie Hubbard — trumpet
Dexter Gordon — tenor saxophone
Butch Warren — bass
Billy Higgins — drums