Herbie Hancock: The Piano

The Songs:Hancock-The Piano

  1. My Funny Valentine
  2. On Green Dolphin Street
  3. Someday My Prince Will Come
  4. Harvest Time
  5. Sonrisa
  6. Manhattan Island
  7. Blue Otani
  8. My Funny Valentine (Bonus Alternate Take)
  9. On Green Dolphin Street (Bonus Alternate Take)
  10. Someday My Prince Will Come (Bonus Alternate Take)
  11. Harvest Time (Bonus Alternate Take)

Personnel:

  • Herbie Hancock – acoustic piano

In October of 1978, Herbie Hancock was in Japan to record two audiophile direct-to-disc recordings. The first album, Directstep, featured his Headhunters band. The second album, The Piano, was recorded one week later. In the direct-to-disc recording process, an entire side of a vinyl album was recorded in one take and simultaneously transcribed onto a lacquer master, avoiding the use of magnetic tape. Because of this, no overdubbing is possible and if a mistake is made, the entire set must be re-recorded. This disc was released in early 1979 and was originally available only in Japan. It did not see a U.S. release until a CD was issued in 2004, 25 years after the original session. The CD includes 4 alternate takes, which constituted one recording set in the studio for the direct-to-disc engineering.

Hancock had been pioneering the use of electronic keyboards in jazz for several years up until this time, but 1978 saw a resurgence of interest for him in the acoustic piano. Other highlights of the year include a tour and recording with the Miles Davis tribute band V.S.O.P. and a highly acclaimed duet tour with fellow pianist Chick Corea, his successor in Miles’ band and another innovator on synthesizers.

The album consists of 3 ballads closely associated with Miles Davis, who Herbie performed them with frequently as a member of the classic “Second Quintet“. The remaining songs are all Hancock originals. The Piano remains unique among the dozens of albums in Hancock’s discography, as it is the only one to consist entirely of solo acoustic piano performances. As the most important and influential pianist since Bill Evans, Herbie is known for being a sensitive and creative accompanist, as well as for his dynamic interplay with other members of a typical rhythm section. This collection of powerful, yet understated solo outings offer a rare opportunity to hear his melodic inventiveness without any backdrop. In the words of the promotional material that accompanied the CD release, this is “an absolute lost gem in the dazzling discography of this master.” (Buy it here.)

This week’s post is dedicated to the memory of my dear college friend, Jamie Kelly, who was a talented jazz pianist and gifted writer. We had similar personalities and shared many interests. I have fond memories of playing some of the same standards found on this album with him. His love and compassion for others will remain as a great legacy to the family and friends he leaves behind. Rest in peace, kiddo.

Jamie

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