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Herbie Hancock Memoir

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2) would you listen to a song called Penis Variations? Bosoms in the Bayou? My Pinky Hurts?

All depends on who's playing or singing them. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dave Frishberg singing My Pinky Hurts. And if Dolly Parton and John Fogerty did a duet on Bosoms in the Bayou I'd give it a listen.

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just a bit of "trivia": i assume most folks don't realize that the cover of the "Speak Like a Child" album was Herbie and his new wife (or about-to-be wife), Gigi. they have now been married approx. 43+ years!

I've always thought that cover design was damned cool - and the music inside it just as good.

I reviewed "Speak Like Child" for Down Beat when it came out and gave it a mere two-and-a-half stars! :ph34r:

Seemed rather bland to me. No -- make that "quite bland."

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just a bit of "trivia": i assume most folks don't realize that the cover of the "Speak Like a Child" album was Herbie and his new wife (or about-to-be wife), Gigi. they have now been married approx. 43+ years!

I've always thought that cover design was damned cool - and the music inside it just as good.

I reviewed "Speak Like Child" for Down Beat when it came out and gave it a mere two-and-a-half stars! :ph34r:

Seemed rather bland to me.

Have you listened to it more recently and, if yes, has your opinion changed?

Edited by Mark Stryker

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I reviewed "Speak Like Child" for Down Beat when it came out and gave it a mere two-and-a-half stars! :ph34r:

Seemed rather bland to me. No -- make that "quite bland."

You were wrong!

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just a bit of "trivia": i assume most folks don't realize that the cover of the "Speak Like a Child" album was Herbie and his new wife (or about-to-be wife), Gigi. they have now been married approx. 43+ years!

I've always thought that cover design was damned cool - and the music inside it just as good.

I reviewed "Speak Like Child" for Down Beat when it came out and gave it a mere two-and-a-half stars! :ph34r:

Seemed rather bland to me.

Have you listened to it more recently and, if yes, has your opinion changed?

No, haven't listened recently. Will do soon.

P.S. Don't have time right now to find (if I even can) and type out my ancient review, but that sense of blandness IIRC had to do mostly with the music's lack of rhythmic and harmonic and timbral interest (IMO of course). But then in those areas one man's relative lack of interesting material can be another man's sublimity. :)

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Personally, I like the record but find that I don't return to it all that often compared to, say, "Empyrean Isles" and "Maiden Voyage," which are definitive, or the early Mwandishi albums that take the germinating ideas on "Speak Like a Child" to a completely new level of authority. "Speak Like a Child" is a transitional record, pointing toward the Mwandishi band in the writing but without a working group to fully explore its implications or merge the writing and improvising into something seamless. Also, I've always wondered about the choice of Mickey Roker on drums, who sounds ok and is stretching in terms of his own playing but lacks the looser approach to time and interactive qualities that a Tony Williams, Joe Chambers or a young Jack DeJohnette would have brought to this idiom. Having said that, Herbie's own playing here pretty consistently knocks me out. 3 1/2 stars overall on a high historical standard, but 4 for Herbie's playing and the compositions.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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AH-HA - in that case, I would emphasize, the blandness of the title reflected the blandness of the song (because I would never question Larry's critical judgement unless offered large sums of money) -

The title thing is interesting, and it's a good point that sometimes producers name songs (didn't Orrin Keepnews name some Monk things?)

though I still maintain that anything, from a book to a song, that contains a title that reflects the innocence of children, will be a bad product. Give me Lord of the Flies any day.

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just a bit of "trivia": i assume most folks don't realize that the cover of the "Speak Like a Child" album was Herbie and his new wife (or about-to-be wife), Gigi. they have now been married approx. 43+ years!

I've always thought that cover design was damned cool - and the music inside it just as good.

I reviewed "Speak Like Child" for Down Beat when it came out and gave it a mere two-and-a-half stars! :ph34r:

Seemed rather bland to me.

Have you listened to it more recently and, if yes, has your opinion changed?

No, haven't listened recently. Will do soon.

P.S. Don't have time right now to find (if I even can) and type out my ancient review, but that sense of blandness IIRC had to do mostly with the music's lack of rhythmic and harmonic and timbral interest (IMO of course). But then in those areas one man's relative lack of interesting material can be another man's sublimity. :)

You may have been wrong but still pretty impressive given that you were probably only 12 years old at the time, right? :rolleyes:

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Allen, if we change the title to The Night of the Hunter will you give it a second chance?

Actually, I tend to agree with Larry and to a degree Mark--I don't think the music ever breaks out of the pleasant texture in a really engaging way. Just compare Riot with the versions by the Miles group.

Edited by Pete C

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just a bit of "trivia": i assume most folks don't realize that the cover of the "Speak Like a Child" album was Herbie and his new wife (or about-to-be wife), Gigi. they have now been married approx. 43+ years!

I've always thought that cover design was damned cool - and the music inside it just as good.

I reviewed "Speak Like Child" for Down Beat when it came out and gave it a mere two-and-a-half stars! :ph34r:

Seemed rather bland to me.

Have you listened to it more recently and, if yes, has your opinion changed?

No, haven't listened recently. Will do soon.

P.S. Don't have time right now to find (if I even can) and type out my ancient review, but that sense of blandness IIRC had to do mostly with the music's lack of rhythmic and harmonic and timbral interest (IMO of course). But then in those areas one man's relative lack of interesting material can be another man's sublimity. :)

You may have been wrong but still pretty impressive given that you were probably only 12 years old at the time, right? :rolleyes:

No -- 26 or 27. I'm edging up on 70 now.

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Personally, I like the record but find that I don't return to it all that often compared to, say, "Empyrean Isles" and "Maiden Voyage," which are definitive, or the early Mwandishi albums that take the germinating ideas on "Speak Like a Child" to a completely new level of authority. "Speak Like a Child" is a transitional record, pointing toward the Mwandishi band in the writing but without a working group to fully explore its implications or merge the writing and improvising into something seamless. Also, I've always wondered about the choice of Mickey Roker on drums, who sounds ok and is stretching in terms of his own playing but lacks the looser approach to time and interactive qualities that a Tony Williams, Joe Chambers or a young Jack DeJohnette would have brought to this idiom. Having said that, Herbie's own playing here pretty consistently knocks me out. 3 1/2 stars overall on a high historical standard, but 4 for Herbie's playing and the compositions.

That album was meant as a "writer's" album above anything else. For me, having Herbie as the only soloist works towards that end quite nicely, another entry into the "featured soloist with orchestral backing", only in this case the orchestra consists of three horns, although voiced in such a way that the textures and harmonies suggest at least a few more being present.

It's certainly not a "visceral" album by any means, and the Rudy/Duke Pearson engineering/production team gauze up the sound a lot, but damn, that's some gorgeous , subtle, meaty writing on that album. And, as you say, some excellent playing by the composer as well.

though I still maintain that anything, from a book to a song, that contains a title that reflects the innocence of children, will be a bad product.

I hear ya' on that one, but otoh, do any of us raise our children with the goal of destroying their innocence as quickly as possible?

Actually, I tend to agree with Larry and to a degree Mark--I don't think the music ever breaks out of the pleasant texture in a really engaging way.

Listen to the two horns that are not playing the lead line...some pretty interesting note choices & spacing of intervals there.

Like I said, Rudy & Duke gauzed this one up pretty heavily, but the music itself is not without some bite.

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AH-HA - in that case, I would emphasize, the blandness of the title reflected the blandness of the song (because I would never question Larry's critical judgement unless offered large sums of money) -

The title thing is interesting, and it's a good point that sometimes producers name songs (didn't Orrin Keepnews name some Monk things?)

though I still maintain that anything, from a book to a song, that contains a title that reflects the innocence of children, will be a bad product. Give me Lord of the Flies any day.

Leaving aside "Speak Like a Child" I might offer these in rebuttal: Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," Robert Schumann's "Kinderszenen, Op. 15" ("Scenes from Childhood"), Debussy's "Children's Corner," Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie." I think "Baby Got Back" and "Baby You Can Drive My Car" are coming from a different place.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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(please note also that, though I express my opinions with some gusto, I have made no personal attacks against anyone on Organissimo in the previous grafs, nor have I questioned anyone's sanity except my own).

Well Praise Jesus, Allen! Everybody's happy!! Cause for celebration, I'd say! :D

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And, of course, Mahler's warm and fuzzy Kindertotenlieder.

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On the topic of the writing on "Speak Like a Child," I have heard/read in various places that Thad Jones, who was on the date, had a hand in the arrangments. Anybody know the details? Mickey Roker in an interview with Ethan Iverson said straight out that Thad wrote the charts, but I don't know exactly how to take that. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if he helped on some level. Herbie was new to game of writing for horns in that particular concept so just as a practical matter of getting certain notes/voicings to speak, he would've been open to polishing in the rehearsals. A topic I'd ask Herbie about if I get another chance.

Edited by Mark Stryker

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"Leaving aside "Speak Like a Child" I might offer these in rebuttal: Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes," Robert Schumann's "Kinderszenen, Op. 15" ("Scenes from Childhood"), Debussy's "Children's Corner," Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie." I think "Baby Got Back" and "Baby You Can Drive My Car" are coming from a different place. "

now you may have got me - except I exempt foreign languages; and MIGHT be willing to accept certain euphemisms. On the other hand, I can't stand Stevie Wonder in any form (I always found him corny and sentimental). Scenes from Childhood is ok as long they are traumatic. "Baby" works ok most of the time. "Girl" sometimes. Debussy already got his comeuppance from Stravinsky, at least according to Robert Craft, so I'll leave him alone.

and Weitzen, thanks for the support. Though I do tend to shy away from songs with the words "jesus" or "God" in them.

Edited by AllenLowe

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On the topic of the writing on "Speak Like a Child," I have heard/read in various places that Thad Jones, who was on the date, had a hand in the arrangments. Anybody know the details? Mickey Roker in an interview with Ethan Iverson said straight out that Thad wrote the charts, but I don't know exactly how to take that. It certainly wouldn't surprise me if he helped on some level. Herbie was new to game of writing for horns in that particular concept so just as a practical matter of getting certain notes/voicings to speak, he would've been open to polishing in the rehearsals. A topic I'd ask Herbie about if I get another chance.

That would be make sense if true. And still interesting if not true!

Thad's another one of those guys, as is Oliver Nelson, whose inner voicings often are not for the faint of heart!

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(please note also that, though I express my opinions with some gusto, I have made no personal attacks against anyone on Organissimo in the previous grafs, nor have I questioned anyone's sanity except my own).

Well Praise Jesus, Allen! Everybody's happy!! Cause for celebration, I'd say! :D

well the id talkers always shake it up until the ego steps in to pull em back into line.

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Headhunters did it for me as a 13 year old, and listened to Chameleon again last night and still love Harvey Mason's beat and his manipulations of it. Herb's Rhodes solo on "Sly," too. Mike Clark, subsequently. Damn. Headhunters got to me more than Mahavishnu or Weather Report. It was an open door. Then came Maiden Voyage......

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Headhunters did it for me as a 13 year old, and listened to Chameleon again last night and still love Harvey Mason's beat and his manipulations of it. Herb's Rhodes solo on "Sly," too. Mike Clark, subsequently. Damn. Headhunters got to me more than Mahavishnu or Weather Report. It was an open door. Then came Maiden Voyage......

Maybe Headhunters made more sense to a kid familiar with rock & funk? For all Mahavishnu's debt to power rock, the music, I think, is coming more from an advanced jazz sensibility, if that makes sense.

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MY DB review (10/17/1968 issue, p. 22) was of both "Speak Like a Child" and McCoy Tyner's "Tender Moments." The former in fact I gave **, the latter ** 1/2. An edited version:

"The second wave of post-Bud Powell pianists has problems. Cecil Taylor threatens them with irrelevancy, while the best of their immediate predecessors -- Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, etc. -- seem on the whole to make better music.

"The reason for the relative failure of men like Hancock and Tyner lies, I think in their dependence on harmony at the expense of rhythm. Coltrane's middle-period playing provided them with an extended range of harmonic possibilities, but they have been unable to produce a music of similar emotional impact.

"Some of their difficulty stems from the nature of the piano. The instrument cannot produce the contrasts in timbre and dynamics, the intense focused sound, that give variety and weight to Coltrane's harmonic explorations. Also, Coltrane used harmonic explorations as a means toward an expressive end. His pianistic disciples seem to have mistaken the means for the end.

"Hancock is a puzzle. He is generally good and sometimes excellent accompanist, but his solo work here is dull. In the notes to the album, Hancock speaks of creating "simple, singable melodies" and "sacrificing the vertical for the horizontal structure," but his playing seems to consist of one harmonic pattern after another, strung out [horizontally] in single-note lines. Melodic interest is rarely apparent, and the evenness with which he plays his lines doesn't allow for much rhythmic variety.

"The music might still work if the harmonies were explored with a sense of surprise, but the shifts from one harmonic color to another soon become predictable....

"Hancock's 'bluesy' playing on First Trip sounds like updated Billy Taylor. On the two ballad-like pieces, Speak Like a Child and Goodbye to Childhood, the rhythmic impulse almost disappears, and the playing anticipates the Muzak of the 1970s....

"Tyner is more successful, etc.....

Quite a little know-it-all I was, but having just listened again to SLAC, I'll stand by a good deal of the above, though not the blanket encomium to Harris and Flanagan (I could have chosen far more wisely and widely) or the idea that Cecil was making anyone irrelevant.

BTW, this review sparked an angry/thoughtful reader's letter in the 12/12 issue, to which I replied. I may type out the exchange later on if there's any desire for that. Speak like a child or forever hold your piece.

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"The reason for the relative failure of men like Hancock and Tyner lies, I think in their dependence on harmony at the expense of rhythm. Coltrane's middle-period playing provided them with an extended range of harmonic possibilities, but they have been unable to produce a music of similar emotional impact.

Did Tyner redeem himself for you with Expansions and the Milestone recordings?

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On the two ballad-like pieces, Speak Like a Child and Goodbye to Childhood, the rhythmic impulse almost disappears, and the playing anticipates the Muzak of the 1970s....

You said this in 1968?

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Larry - let's see the rest. I'm with you on all of this (which may lead you to change your mind).

back to the future?

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On the two ballad-like pieces, Speak Like a Child and Goodbye to Childhood, the rhythmic impulse almost disappears, and the playing anticipates the Muzak of the 1970s....

You said this in 1968?

Yes -- "anticipates" as in "anticipates what I think the Muzak of the 1970s will be like."

"The reason for the relative failure of men like Hancock and Tyner lies, I think in their dependence on harmony at the expense of rhythm. Coltrane's middle-period playing provided them with an extended range of harmonic possibilities, but they have been unable to produce a music of similar emotional impact.

Did Tyner redeem himself for you with Expansions and the Milestone recordings?

Absolutely. And with a lot of live performances, too.

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