Well, it’s been a long day of blowing leaves all over my back yard, the cost of living in what should really be a forest. So I kind of forgot about doing an album tonight until about 5 minutes ago. Luckily we have a lot of great albums still to choose from, and tonight I decided to grab Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock. Recorded and released in 1965, Maiden Voyage was Hancock’s fifth album as a leader and may still be his best, although he’s recorded an almost superhuman number of albums since then. As the title suggests, Hancock oriented the album around the theme of a sea voyage or just the sea generally speaking. Since it’s late, let’s just get to the tunes.
The personnel on the album is the same as on the 1963 Miles Davis classic Seven Steps to Heaven (Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, Tony Williams on drums, and George Coleman on tenor saxophone), except swap out Davis for Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. That’s a pretty superstar lineup and the results reflect that. All the tunes were written by Hancock.
First up is the title track, which is right out of Davis’s modal jazz movement and is still arguably Hancock’s best-known composition:
“The Eye of the Hurricane” translates the chaos of the storm all around you into an uptempo bop number:
The next track, “Little One,” is a balladish number that also wound up being recorded for the Miles Davis album E.S.P., which was also released in 1965 with the Hancock/Carter/Williams rhythm section and Wayne Shorter on tenor (this is considered Miles’s “Second Great Quintet,” his John Coltrane-Red Garland-Paul Chambers-Philly Joe Jones group from the 1950s being the first). In particular I like Coleman’s tenor better than Shorter’s on E.S.P., but then I’m not a huge fan of Wayne Shorter’s playing (his writing, on the other hand, is amazing):
“Survival of the Fittest” gives you a real sense of a harrowing trek through the wilderness, and lets Williams’s drumming shine:
Aside from “Maiden Voyage” itself, “Dolphin Dance” is the other real classic from the album, and this laid back number has become a well-deserved jazz standard: