Recording of the Week, Archival Edition: Herbie Hancock, Live in Chicago 1977; Larry Young, In Paris: The ORTF Recordings

A double dose this week—the goal of this series is to cover 52 releases this year, and if I get knocked off track (cold and Winter break for kindergartner’s last week), I will catch up.

Herbie Hancock Live in Chicago 1977

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These are both archival releases, and both wonderful surprises. We can enjoy them thanks to the enduring value of radio. The Hancock disc is a live set recorded in Chicago in 1977 on a broadcast from WXRT-FM. The document is prominently of note due to Jaco Patorius sitting in on bass, with the group filled out by Bennie Maupin on reeds and James Levi at the drums. Hancock and Pastorius collaborated several times, including on Jaco’s debut album and backing Joni Mitchell on her Mingus album.

On Live in Chicago 1977, the set list is Head Hunters era funk, a fabulous blend of style, sophistication, and body-moving music. The set begins with “Chameleon,” and the feeling is strangely subdued. But then Hancock makes the introductions, the band gets into “Hang Up Your Hang-Ups,” and everything sizzles from then on, including a surprising and satisfying take on “Maiden Voyage.” Maupin, so underrated and so good, is extremely strong and Hancock gives him a lot more room than on the studio recordings. Pastorius is terrific in this setting, he seems to have a natural affinity for the group, which in the context of his musical depth and virtuosity means that he fits right in as an equal member.

Larry Young: In Paris, the ORTF Recordings

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The Larry Young set is two discs of never before released music recorded both in the studio and live by ORTF in France. At the core of the collection is music from (and the style of) Young’s classic Unity album—there’s a tremendous twenty minute live take on “Zoltan,” and the young Woody Shaw is even more exciting and explosive on trumpet than he is on the Blue Note release.

The music is historically important, though the quality is truthfully uneven—however, the best of the music is fantastic and makes this set a pleasure well worth the cost. Young is either sideman or leader, depending on the situation, and not all those situations are ideal: the trio on “Mean to Me” with drummer Franco Manzecchi and Jacky Bamboo on congos is wan, and there are several all-star tracks with larger ensembles that range from exciting to muddled.

The tracks with the Nathan Davis Quartet, however, are terrific, and along with “Zoltan” there is “Black Nile,” both recorded February 9, 1965, live at La Locomotive in Paris. They are absolutely burning. The collection closes with Young at the piano, in a trio, knocking off “Larry’s Blue,” and more than just the curiosity of hearing Young at the more traditional keyboard, it’s a neatly excellent track. The documentation is top-notch.

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