The early genius of Herbie Hancock – perfectly summed up here in five classic albums for Blue Note – each presented in a tiny LP-styled sleeve! Takin Off has Herbie Hancock stepping into the limelight with an excellent batch of soul jazz tunes, including the first recording of his classic "Watermelon Man", the one track that probably put all his kids through school! Although that one went on to become a standard within a few short years in 60s jazz, it still sounds great here in the original – a very fresh take on the sound of soul jazz in the 60s – offered up here in a 7 minute version that has more sharp soloing than most other takes on the tune! The group here is great too – with Dexter Gordon
on tenor, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Butch Warren on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums – and the tracks are all also originals by a young Herbie – including "Watermelon Man", "The Maze", "Driftin", "Three Bags Full", "Alone & I", and "Empty Pockets". My Point Of View is a great mix of soul jazz and modernism! The record include a nice groovy "hit", Herbie's "Blind Man, Blind Man" – an obvious follow-up to "Watermelon Man", but still a standout track with a lot of imagination, and a fierce soul jazz hook that just won't quit! The rest of the record, while still groovy, also shows much more signs of Herbie's far-reaching conception – especially shared with players like Tony Williams, Grachan Moncur, Chuck Israels, and Grant Green – all of whom work with Herbie, Donald Byrd, and Hank Mobley – in a larger than usual group that makes for a really great sound! Titles include "A Tribute To Someone", "King Cobra", and "The Pleasure Is Mine". Inventions & Dimensions is really unique little record from Herbie Hancock – one that's almost completely improvised over Latin percussion! The setup is quite spare – and quite different than Herbie's other Blue Note work – and the group features improvised backgrounds by bassist Paul Chambers and 2 Latin percussionists, Willie Bobo and Osvaldo "Chihuahau" Martinez. Herbie only wrote simple sketches for the songs on the album, and most of the work on the tracks was done live, spontaneously, in the studio – creating a very free groove that never goes too far out, but which is far more adventurous than usual. All tracks are long, and titles include "Succotash", "Triangle", and "Mimosa". Speak Like A Child is an oft-overlooked session that has Herbie mixing a nice dose of lyricism into his usual soul jazz approach from the 60s! The sound's a bit farther-reaching than on some of Herbie's smaller group sessions – and the record features a sextet that includes Ron Carter, Mickey Roker, Jerry Dodgion, Thad Jones, and Peter Phillips – all soaring with the warmth and introspection that was showing up in some of the best Blue Notes from the time. The harder-hitting soul jazz riffs and hooks are nicely replaced by more thoughtful lines that get a bit deeper, soufully – and nearly all tracks on the set are originals by Hancock! The album's filled with great moments – and tracks include "The Sorcerer", "Riot", and "Goodbye To Childhood". Last up is The Prisoner – a nice late Blue Note change from Herbie Hancock – a very different album than his previous sets for the label – in that it features a slightly larger group, and a sound that really points the way towards his directions in the 70s! There's a slightly ambitious feel to some of these cuts – not in a way that's over-arranged, but just a new sort of thinking for Herbie's kind of groove – a mode that's partially informed by the seriousness of 60s jazz soundtracks, but which also has the beginnings of some more righteous modes of expression too. Players are all great – and include Joe Henderson on tenor and flute, Johnny Coles on flugelhorn, Garnett Brown on trombone, Hubert Laws on flute, Jerome Richardson on bass clarinet, Buster Williams on bass, and Tootie Heath on drums. Herbie plays both acoustic and electric piano – using the latter here in one of his first recordings on the instrument – and titles include "Firewater", "I Have A Dream", "The Prisoner", and "He Who Lives In Fear".