Herbie Hancock - Thrust/Man-Child/Secrets [Robinsongs/Cherry Red - 2016]Here we have a two disc CD reissue from late 2016, bringing together three 1970’s albums from this highly respected jazz/funk pianist, keyboardist & band leader. All three albums here sit (fairly) firmly in the funk/ jazz-funk/ Jazz-fusion side of Mr Hancock’s out put.Featured here we have 1974’s Trust, 1975’s Man-child, and 1976’s Secrets, plus a selection of shorter single versions from over all three albums.
The release appears on Robinsongs, which is one of the sub-labels of the Cherry Red group- so of course you’re guaranteed a well put together reissue. The two discs come in a clear slim-line double jewel case. The packaging features a full colour twelve page booklet- this takes in a new five page write-up about the three albums, and the period between 74 & 76 in Hancock’s carer- it's by Mojo magazine writer Lois Wilson. You also get full credits for all three albums, band pictures, and reproduction of vinyl labels.
So first up on disc one we have 1974’s Trust, and this offers up four fairly lengthy( between seven & eleven minute) slices of prime Jazz-funk. Each of these brings together a near perfect blend of memorability, groove, effective break-down/ solo points, and great composition. The line-up for the album was a five piece band featuring: Hancock- Fender Rhodes electric piano, Hohner D6 clavinet, ARP Odyssey, ARP Soloist, ARP 2600, ARP String Ensemble. Bennie Maupin- tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, saxello, bass clarinet, alto flute. Paul Jackson – electric bass. Mike Clark – drums, & Bill Summers – percussion. Mr Maupin will of course need little or no introduction to fans of 60’s/ 70’s fusion as he appeared on Miles Davis Bitches Brew, as well other 70’s work with Hancock, and other respected jazz/ fusion artists such as Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, and Horace Silver. The other three members of the band are respected musicians in their own right, and were all members of Hancock’s Headhunters band, which is one of the most respected funk-fusion bands of all time. I think it’s fair to say this album was the peak of Hancock’s jazz-funk period, as each of the tracks is perfectly penned, arranged, and performed- each is complex & detailed in it’s unfold, yet always there is a constant focus on flow, melody, and groove. The lion share of first disc is taken up the Thrust albums original four tracks, as well as three shorter single versions of album tracks.
Second up we have Man-Child, and this is from 1975. The original album takes in six tracks, and these have a more mixed runtimes of between five, seven, eight and nine minutes. The sound for this album is still very Jazz-funk based, but with a more jazz- fusion edge. For this release Hancock is once again joined by Maupin, along with other respected jazz figures such Wayne Shorter(on alto and soprano sax), Ernie Watts( on flute) Jim Horn( on Sax), Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist DeWayne McKnight, and others. The tone/ pace on this album is a bit more varied- going from strutting funk rock work-outs, onto more drifting & mellow blends of horn edged and Rhodes funk/ jazz/ R&B blends. Onto more strutting electro funk grooves. Though-out the whole of this album the musicianship is great, with some very effective interplays, solos, and work-outs. But on the downside there seems slightly less melody & focus on flowing concise composition, because at times the tracks do wonder off into noodling. Track listing wise this album has a rather back-to-front running order for the reissue- with the two bonus single versions appearing first on the end of disc one, followed up by the albums first three tracks, with the remaining three appearing on disc two.
So lastly we of course have 1976’s Secrets- this takes in seven tracks, with running times between four, six, seven & eight minutes. This album followed on with the jazz/fusion/ funk sound of Man-child, but increased the use of guitar with-in the compositions. Once again at the centre of the tracks is Hancock & Maupin, been joined by the likes of Wah Wah Watson( on guitar), Paul Jackson( bass), Kenneth Nash( percussion), James Levi(drums). Following on from Man-child again the pace of the tracks is more varied, with a few tracks changing pace/ tact though their running-time. Melody does seem more important here, and so are the hints at more pop based song craft, though as already mentioned the tracks often wonder off on tangents. I guess you could say it sits between Trust & Man-child, in its focus no composition, memrobilty, & groove- though of course with a more guitar based fusion focus. The second disc is topped of with two single version from the album.
In conclusion if you’re interested in Mr Hancock in his more funk focused fusion period of the mid 1970’s, this really is something you must track down. And with a present retail price of just over ten pounds this is rather good value too.Roger Batty