On April 12 of this year, Herbie Hancock will turn 75. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Hancock is easily one of the most recognisable and accomplished musicians of his generation. In the course of his career, he has performed and recorded with many of the greatest jazz artists of the era, and created music that has become timeless. In early 1965, Herbie Hancock occupied an enviable position in the jazz world. He was the featured pianist in the Miles Davis Quintet, one of the most popular groups at the time, and he had his own recording contract with Blue Note records, the most famous jazz label of the era.
In his memoir, Possibilities, Hancock remembers that during this busy period he was in Los Angeles recording an album with Davis (later released as E.S.P), and making preparations for his next solo project for Blue Note. He received a call from an advertising agency looking for something jazzy and sophisticated to be used in an ad for men’s cologne, and despite his busy schedule, Hancock readily accepted the assignment. He already had music in mind for the spot – a basic melody and rhythmic pattern that first came to him during a plane ride to the West Coast. This melody turned out to be perfect for the ad.
A few months later, Hancock was back in New York working on his next solo recording. The opening tune of the record would be fashioned from the same basic melody and rhythms he had used for the commercial. Once the session was completed, he knew he had something special, but still didn’t have names for any of the songs that had been recorded. According to the pianist, as he was playing tapes from the session for his sister and some friends, one of them said It reminds me of water. The first song sounds like a maiden voyage. Hancock loved the suggestion, and with its soft rolling chords and mesmerising rhythmic pattern, the description seemed perfect for the opening tune. It would eventually become one of his most popular compositions, as well as the title for one of the iconic albums of the decade: Maiden Voyage.
Eventually, all five original tunes on the album were given names connected to the theme of a sea voyage or journey. In order, they are Maiden Voyage, The Eye of the Hurricane, Little One, Survival Of The Fittest and Dolphin Dance. Recorded on March 17, 1965 for Blue Note records, Maiden Voyage features saxophonist George Coleman, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. In the 50 years since the release of this legendary album, it has lost none of its ability to captivate listeners. In fact, new generations of fans continue to be drawn to Hancock’s music, and to this day it remains one of the best-selling titles in the Blue Note catalogue.
If you don’t know the album then now is the time to check it out. You won’t regret a moment spent listening to this classic jazz release – as timeless now as on its first release.
[with thanks to www.jazzradio.com]