Bob Gluck, Associate Professor, Department of Music and Theatre
"It was playing with Herbie that I found myself." With those words, jazz
master drummer Billy Hart described his three years performing in pianist
Herbie Hancock's formative Sextet during the early 1970s. The band Hart
referenced was at the center of my first book, You'll Know When You Get
There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band (University of Chicago
Press, 2012). Hart and I were chatting in November 2014, contemplating
the possibility of re-recording some of the band's repertoire. Jump ahead
seven months and the recording engineer cued the quartet to begin, as we
played with Hart and his fellow original band member trumpeter Eddie
Henderson, and colleague, bassist Christopher Dean Sullivan. That my work
on the book could lead to such a session had been previously unimaginable
to me, and it was a great privilege to have this opportunity. We were
all delighted with the fruits of the session.
The nature of the resulting CD is embedded in the title: "Infinite Spirit: Revisiting Music of the Mwandishi Band" (FMR Records, 2016). The goal was to "revisit" in the sense of taking an entirely new look at the music. What was retained of its origins is a flexibly treated framework consisting of the musical forms and melodies, but more important, the band¹s exploratory, improvisatory spirit. Also revisited was the band¹s blend of acoustic and electronic sounds. The latter were composed by me in advance of the session and could be heard in our headphones as we performed. The quartet of improvisers thus dynamically responded to each other¹s playing and also to the pre-recorded musical tracks that were included in the mix.
It is my hope that the results of this "revisit" will be enjoyed by a wide variety of listeners; jazz lovers, and those who appreciate a beat that is simultaneously complex and in a groove. It will be of particular interest to lovers of the musically adventuresome combination of offbeat funk, abstraction, electronic timbres, and empathetic ensemble playing that characterized the original Mwandishi band.
Partial funding for this project came from a FRAP B grant, for which I offer thanks. The website for the new recording is www.electricsongs.com/infinitespirit
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