Tag Archives: roy hargrove

MTH-V: Herbie’s “Actual Proof”

The weekly video series/curation is back again after a lengthy hiatus. And back with a bang.

This is the first time I’ve explicitly featured Herbie Hancock in this series, though he’s come up on occasion (you can see him with Michael Brecker here). Below is one of my favorite songs of his, “Actual Proof,” which was originally released on 1974’s Thrust. (It’s my favorite of the Headhunters albums.) Herbie has long been one of my all-time favorite musicians. Even though he’ll be 73 next month, he remains one of the most forward-thinking figures in music of any genre, and he’s always progressing and experimenting. Attempting a brief career overview here is silly, but suffice it to say he’s just about done it all. From his groundbreaking early work with Miles (both acoustic and electric), to his various funk explorations, to crossover success with “Rockit” and later a Grammy for Album of the Year for a wonderfully original Joni Mitchell tribute, to his exploring the ends of both jazz and pop music, he’s a force to be reckoned with. (And to top it off, he seems to be a sweetheart by all accounts.) I have about twenty of his solo albums – which barely scratches the surface! – as well as just about everything he did with Miles. It’s such an eclectic collection, as just about everything he does is great. I’ve seen him in concert four times (five if you count an interview in which he played a couple tunes), and he blew me away each time in a different capacity. (One performance included a 55-minute “Dauphin Dance” that was from another planet…)

The band in the below video is a slightly amended version of his Headhunter’s ’05 band that was assembled for his featured set at Bonnaroo 2005. (I attended Bonnaroo ’05, and the Headhunters set remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen of any style.) This particular lineup played later that year, with this performance taking place in Tokyo. The personnel features many powerhouses – most of which are well-known bandleaders in their own right:

Herbie Hancock – piano
Terri Lyne Carrington – drums
Roy Hargrove – trumpet
Munyungo Jackson – percussion
Lionel Loueke – guitar
Marcus Miller – bass
Wah Wah Watson – guitar

(Simply trade John Mayer for Watson and add Kenny Garrett and you have the lineup I saw at Bonnaroo…)

This is a great rendition of Herbie classic. Hancock, Hargrove, and Loueke all get some solo space, and the unparalleled rhythm section of Carrington/Miller/Jackson/Watson holds the groove down while weaving in and out of various feels. Just ignore Hargrove’s early entrance on the head. 🙂

MTH-V: Michael Brecker

This past Friday (01.13) marked the fifth anniversary of Michael Brecker‘s death. His music and musicianship definitely touches me still. Not only was he one of the tenor saxophone’s greatest technicians, but he played with a deep intensity and emotional to match.

Of the many reasons to love Michael’s playing and ethic, one that particularly stands out to me is his stylistic versatility, having attained a great degree of commercial success in pop music while maintaining a career as a heavy, widely-respected jazz musician. His funk and fusion work with his brother Randy in the Brecker Brothers is of course widely known to most musicians, but his work with James Taylor, Joni Mitchell (if you aren’t familiar with Shadows and Light, go buy it right now), and Paul Simon exposed his name and playing to a much wider audience. (His solo on James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” is classic.) And then of course his more straight ahead and avant-garde jazz roots shone brightly in his solo work and that with his longtime collaborators in Saxophone Summit. (His playing was evidence of his deep love for Coltrane’s late period. In fact, it made his passing the day after Alice Coltrane‘s death that much more eerie.)

While there are hundreds of videos I could choose from, I’ve chosen only a few. This first video is from a Vienna performance of Herbie’s “The Sorcerer” with Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Willie Jones III. I saw Michael Brecker live with a variation of this band (with bassist Scott Colley and the always intense Terri Lyne Carrington on drums) a couple months before his disease was made public. Brecker was quite pale, and, though he spent much of the night sitting on a stool or offstage when not playing, he absolutely destroyed Detroit’s Orchestra Hall. Enjoy Herbie ripping it up at the top; Brecker’s solo starts at 3:55.

Just when you thought Brecker had no need for improvements, here’s an excerpt of a 1996 interview with Jazz’s web documentarian Bret Primack:

And what post remembering Michael would be complete with Brecker Brothers’ “Some Skunk Funk”? (With Mike Stern, drummer Dennis Chambers [whom you should recognize from the Stern/Berg post], bassist James Genus, and keyboardist George Whitty.) This is BURNIN’!