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Maiden Voyage
Blue Note Records -
RVG Edition 7243 4 95331 2 7

1. Maiden Voyage 7:53
(Herbie Hancock)

2. The Eye Of The Hurricane 5:57
(Herbie Hancock)

3. Little One
(Herbie Hancock)

4. Survival Of The Fittest 9:59
(Herbie Hancock)

5. Dolphin Dance 9:16
(Herbie Hancock)

Freddie Hubbard, trumpet
George Coleman, tenor saxophone
Herbie Hancock, piano
Ron Carter, bass
Tony Williams, drums

Produced by Alfred Lion
Recorded on March 17, 1965 at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
Original recording and 1998 remastering by Rudy Van Gelder
All transfers from analog to digital were made at 24-bit resolution

Reissue produced by Michael Cuscuna
Cover photograph and design by Reid Miles
Liner photographs from the actual session by Francis Wolff © Mosaic Images

Originally issued as Blue Note BLP 4195 and BST 84195
Creative Director for RVG Series: Gordon H. Jee
Design for RVG Series: Michael Boland and Eric Bernhardi for Watts Design

Blue Note ® is a registered trademark of Capitol Records, Inc., (P) & © 1999 Capitol Records, Inc. Manufactured by Capitol Records, Inc. Hollywood and Vine Streets, Hollywood, California. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Printed in U.S.A.

Original Liner Notes

The sea has often stirred the imagination of creative minds involved in all spheres of art. There still exists an element of mystery which surrounds the sea and the living aquatic creatures which provide it with its vital essence. Atlantis, the Sargasso Sea, giant serpents, and mermaids are only a few of the many folkloric mysteries which have evolved through man’s experiences with the sea.

This music attempts to capture its vastness and majesty, the splendor of a sea-going vessel on its maiden voyage, the graceful beauty of the playful dolphins, the constant struggle for survival of even the tiniest sea creatures, and the awesome destructive power of the hurricane, nemesis of seamen.

– Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage    

Before the dawn of water is clear and quiet, the small movement of the waves rhythmic it is a stillness in itself. The birds are silent, and the beach is as empty as the sky, except for a few small crabs that poke among the rocks, looking for food tinier than they.

As the first hint of gray suffuses the horizon and imperceptibly lightens the deep black waters, a light wind ruffles the tips of the wavelets, whitening their crests with tongues of foam. Slowly the sand gains life, the grayness of the starry night becoming faintly yellow, a forerunner to the blazing white of noon.

In this empty hour the busy world is shrouded in loneliness. Half-buried cans glint weakly in the diffused light, and as the day grows broader, the whole length of the beach slowly becomes visible, vast and silent, the discarded residue of humanity scarring its desert purity. Metal wastebaskets are dotted over the landscape as far as the eye can see, looking strange and useless, as desolate as gravestones.

A single ship, perhaps on her maiden voyage, her mast a black spike against the sky, hovers near the horizon, until the curving waters sink her sail from view. The sand twinkles in the growing day, but all too soon the sea will break on a shore of people. Gone will be the huge, secret silence, as the masses stream from the city behind, scurrying madly like lemmings to the waiting strand.

But through the land may submit, the sea is yet implacable, changeless, and though the people, deeming themselves brave, tiptoe out from the edge of the land and splash in the shallows, tasting the salt, they can but shiver on the fringes of her mystery. Her vastness remains dark and secret, a misty world of silence and beauty and fluid grace. From the great sluggish sea turtles gliding in slow motion through the depths, to the swift and playful dolphins, jesters and intelligentsia of her kingdom, everything in the sea moves constantly in flight or pursuit.

To us a playground or a symbol of peace, to her creatures the sea is a water jungle, a world of swift life and swifter death, whose silence cloaks a lurking danger. Killer whales, cruel kings of the sea, cruise slowly about, slaying for the love of blood and battle. Sea anemones, beautiful and deadly, wave their tentacles, beckoning small fish to death by poison. Like the land, it is a world where the small and timid must be swift and clever at hiding, where the strong prey on the weak, the weak on those more defenseless than themselves, a world where only the fittest survive.

Ancient tales speak of its beauty and danger, of nameless terrors that lurk in the shadows, awaiting the unwary, of fantastic monsters rearing vast and hideous heads from the depths, crunching ships in tow with one snap of their jaws.

They speak too of the wondrous cities built by men of old under the sea, that appear only once in a hundred years, only to sink beneath the surface again, leaving no trace. Yet in truth, no cities of man exist beneath the sea, and lost Atlantis is but a woman’s tale. The sea yet holds her secrets, and it will be many a long year ere man plumbs her depths, ravaging her beauty, imprisoning her creatures, usurping her throne with a savage hand.

 – Nora Kelly    

A New Look At Maiden Voyage

Concept albums more often than not turn into attenuated exercises in pretense. Not so with this album, which has to be considered on of the all-time jazz masterpieces. There is an aura surrounding the melodic material and the rhythms, particularly the ebb-and-flow washed of Tony William’s drums, that sustain the nautical conceit; and the musicians respond in the spirit of wonder, adventure, risk, awe and joy appropriate to each track.

The band assembled here might be considered an edition of the Miles Davis quintet with Freddie Hubbard in the trumpet chair. As such, it reinforces the conclusion derived from Hancock’s previous Empyrean Isles – that, in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio under Alfred Lion’s supervision, the Hancock/Carter/Williams troika produced music every bit as magnificent (and far better sounding) than the justly-celebrated Davis quintet recordings for Columbia. Hubbard, who had played cornet on Empyrean Isles nine months earlier, is back on trumpet here, while George Coleman is added on tenor sax.

Coleman’s presence is a bit unexpected, given that he had left the Davis band in 1964 and that his ultimate replacement with Davis, Wayne Shorter, was a Blue Note leader who one assumes was as available as the rest of Davis’ band. Perhaps Hancock felt that Coleman had not received sufficient opportunity to display his skill in the context of newly-minted material during his tenure with the trumpeter. In any event, Coleman proves the model of eloquence here, and these solos remain among the most exquisite he ever recorded.

The work of Hubbard and Williams deserves special mention. Hubbard takes his horn into areas on the title track and “Eye Of The Hurricane” that galvanize the music, coming as close to translating the expressive innovations of John Coltrane to the trumpet as any brass player ever got.

(In a recent conversation, Hubbard acknowledged that the extended techniques heard here, and on his equally immortal solo on Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Memories,” were directly inspired by Coltrane, and opined that such blowing may have contributed to his later embouchure problems.) For all of the “edge” that these flurries impart, Hubbard still turns in one of his most melodic performances. He often performed better as a sideman than a leader, especially when he worked on Hancock’s projects. Williams, for his part, never turned his sixth sense for percussive nuance more finely than he did on this session, where he captures every metaphorical breeze and droplet in Hancock’s compositions.

The compositions are among the classics of the period. Hancock had, at least temporarily, set aside the funky inclinations expressed so convincingly on “Watermelon Man” and “Cantaloupe Island,” and was plumbing the challenging harmonic terrain where beauty and experimentation coexist so brilliantly. For this album, he provided five distinct yet complimentary structures, two of which (“Maiden Voyage” and “Dolphin Dance”) continue to be as frequently covered as any jazz originals from the period. It makes Hancock’s achievement only more impressive when one realizes that the tunes were not originally conceived as a five-part suite. “Maiden Voyage” was written as background music for a TV ad; and the non-oceanic though emotionally fitting “Little One,” previously recorded by the Davis quintet with Shorter on the Columbia album ESP, was (like Hancock’s subsequent composition “The Sorcerer”) a tribute to Davis.

Blue Note logs indicate that an attempt had been made to record “Maiden Voyage,” “Little One” and “Dolphin Dance” six days earlier, with Hubbard on cornet and Stu Martin in place of Williams. Those performances were rejected at the time, and have been lost in the ensuing years. It might have been interesting to hear these alternate versions of such familiar tunes, but hardly essential. There is, after all, no way to improve a perfect album, and Maiden Voyage is one of the perfect ones.

– Bob Blumenthal, 1999    

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