Herbie Hancock: V.S.O.P (1977)

VSOP (1 front 1)

Track list:

CD 1:
01. Piano Introduction
02. Maiden Voyage
03. Nefertiti
04. Introduction of Players / Eye of the Hurricane

CD 2:
01. Toys
02. Introductions
03. You’ll Know When You Get There
04. Hang Up Your Hang Ups
05. Spider


#1-1 to 1-4:
Freddie Hubbard – Trumpet;
Wayne Shorter – Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax;
Herbie Hancock – Yamaha Electric Grand Piano;
Ron Carter – Bass;
Tony Williams- Drums

#2-1 to 2-3:
Mwile Bennie Maupin – Alto Flute;
Mganga Eddie Henderson – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Effects;
Pepo Julian Priester – Tenor & Bass Trombones;
Mwandishi Herbie Hancock – Rhodes, Yamaha Electric Grand Piano, Clavinet [Hohner D6];
Mchezaji Buster Williams – Bass;
Jabali Billy Hart – Drums

#2-4, 2-5:
Bennie Maupin – Soprano Sax, Tenor Sax, Lyricon;
Herbie Hancock – Rhodes, Yamaha Electric Grand Piano, Synthesizer [Arp Odyssey, Arp String Ensemble], Clavinet [Hohner D6], Synthesizer [Micro-moog, Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer, Echoplex, Countryman Phase Shifter, Cry Baby Wah Wah];
Ray Parker Jr. – Guitar;
Wah Wah Watson – Guitar, Synthesizer [Maestro Universal Synthesizer System, Maestro Sample & Hold], Talkbox [Voice Bag];
Paul Jackson – Electric Bass;
James Levi – Drums;
Kenneth Nash – Percussion

Recorded: Live at New York City Center, as part of Newport Jazz Festival, June 29, 1976
Released: 1977
Label: Columbia
PG 34688

Producer: David Rubinson & Friends
Associate producer: Jeffrey Cohen
Engineers: Fred Catero, David Rubinson

Remote recording facilities: Aaron J.Brown: Woodstock, New York
Assistant Location Engineers: Aaron J.Brown, Fred Scheidt, Tom Dwyer, Larry Dahlstrom, Tom Brown, Ron Olson, Paul Cohen

Mixed at: The Automatt Recording Studios in San Francisco
Assistant Engineer: Chris Minto

Mastering: George Horn, Paul Stubblebine
Live Audio Engineer: Bryan Bell (Assistant: Fundi)

Liner Notes: Herbie Hancock

Art Director: John Berg
Design: John Coll

Photographs: Kazuhiro Tsuruta (front); Tom Copi (back); Fred Lombardi, Tom Copi (rehearsal)


The occasion for these recordings was a special concert presented on June 29, 1976 at New York’s City Center, by George Wein as part of the Newport Jazz Festival.

Originally termed a “Retrospective of The Music of Herbie Hancock” its purpose was not so much to pay tribute to one musician, but to enable a group of great musicians to get together and play.


V.S.O.P. is a landmark album in the history of jazz, though not at all in the way it was intended.

George Wein organized a Herbie Hancock retrospective concert at the 1977 Newport Jazz Festival in New York where three bands from Hancock’s past and present — the 1965-1968 Miles Davis Quintet with Freddie Hubbard deputizing for the indisposed Miles, the 1969-1973 sextet, and Hancock’s then-current jazz-funk outfit — would share the stage.

As things turned out, it was the Miles band reunion that grabbed most of the attention, leading to several tours which in turn inspired a whole generation of young musicians (led by Wynton Marsalis) to turn their backs upon electronics and make bop-grounded acoustic jazz the lingua franca of jazz for the rest of the 20th century.

This is not the outcome the forward-looking Hancock would have preferred, but you cannot deny that he, Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams sound marvelously in sync with each other, playing in a free-flowing, post-bop style none of them had touched in years.

(Hancock is actually playing a Yamaha electric grand piano, not an acoustic grand — there’s a substantial sonic difference, yet one that went unremarked upon by otherwise-watchful purists at the time).

The concert also turned out to be a farewell to the great Hancock Sextet (which has yet to reunite on records); this group actually made the most absorbing, adventurous music of that evening, with trumpeter Eddie Henderson laying a more credible claim to Miles’ pithy idiom than Hubbard had earlier.

The sextet plays only two numbers: “Toys” and “You’ll Know When You Get There.”

It’s a pity there isn’t more.

The two-LP set concludes with a somewhat disappointing jazz-funk set from a post-Headhunters edition band with Bennie Maupin and Paul Jackson as holdovers.

They don’t quite raise the temperature, or the complexity level as high as earlier Hancock jazz-funk outfits.

The contrast between Hancock’s present on this given day and his illustrious past was no doubt used as ammunition by the back-to-bop crowd to proclaim that “fusion” has got to go, which was unfair.

The reverberations from this concert continue to this day.

~Richard S. Ginell [allmusic]