Herbie Hancock – Speak Like a Child – Blue Note B0020644-01 (1968) stereo vinyl ****:

(Herbie Hancock – piano; Thad Jones – Flugelhorn; Peter Phillips – bass trombone; Jerry Dodgion – alto flute; Ron Carter – bass; Mickey Roker – drums)

When Herbie Hancock issued Speak Like a Child he was an integral part of the Miles Davis Quintet circa 1963-1968 (one of Miles’ most well-respected quintets). It had been three years since perhaps his most well known Blue Note issues, Maiden Voyage, and Herbie was still deeply influenced by his tenure with Miles. Both of these albums share an accessible lyrical balance between improvisation and post bop influences. This re-issue from the 75th anniversary of Blue Note, was produced by Duke Pearson, whose taste and influence always seemed impeccable during the 1960s.

Horns were used for tonal texture as opposed to singular solo contributions. Steady foundation was laid down by bassist Ron Carter and drummer, Mickey Roker. Hancock generously shared the spotlight with the horns and the rock solid rhythm section. His piano set the tone for a lyrical modal sound pattern less reliant on individual instrumentation than on setting harmonies rich in color for rhythmic patterns blending jazz with occasional rock motifs.

Side One features the title track and Ron Carter’s “First Trip.” Both fit into the modal means of expression that Miles was featuring with his quintet. The flip side highlights “Toys” which Hancock describes as a “blues without it being a blues.” It has the colors of the blues but not the form. His piano choruses, to me, certainly have a blues “feel.” The horn blend works well and Ron Carter’s bass line is well recorded, while the re-issue mastering by Bernie Grundman assures the sound mix is top notch.

Some of the most pleasurable music on the LP are the closing tracks on Side 2: “Goodbye to Childhood” and “The Sorcerer.” Herbie’s lyricism is on full display with interludes from the horns and alto flute. “The Sorcerer” was written by Hancock for Miles to reflect both the attitude and mystery reflected in Miles’ persona.

All in all, this album is a welcome addition to Blue Note’s LP reissue program, and one of Hancock’s most prized label issues.

TrackList:

Side One: Riot, Speak Like a Child, First Trip
Side Two: Toys, Goodbye to Childhood, The Sorcerer

—Jeff Krow