[Review] Herbie Hancock: Crossings (1972)

Moog and mellotron make an appearance on what may be Hancock’s most adventurous album to date.

Kronomyth 11.0: Star trek.

Herbie Hancock continued his experiments in fusion by mixing jazz, funk and electronic space music on Crossings. While I find it to be the most “difficult” of his Warner Bros. albums, it’s still a worthwhile journey for jazz adventurers. The new wrinkle in the music is the Moog synthesizer, featured here in extensive studio overdubs provided by Dr. Patrick Gleeson. The Moog is treated as a fourth wind on “Quasar,” appearing in duets with flute (Benny Maupin) and trumpet (Eddie Henderson). It plays an even more prominent role on the closing “Water Torture,” creating an ambient jazz soundscape suggestive of Tangerine Dream.

The electronic sounds are more subtle on the side-long “Sleeping Giant,” which provides the centerpiece of Crossings. You’ll hear it bubbling under the surface during the percussion introduction, drifting in and out during the softer passages and even (I believe) creating a “snoring” effect close to the 18-minute mark. “Sleeping Giant” shifts between waking and sleeping sections, with some exploratory jazz in between but only a minimal use of horns, and even then mostly saxophone from Maupin. The mix splits the horns between the left (Priester), center (Henderson) and right (Maupin) channels, which to my mind prevents their sounds from properly blending. Buster Williams also seems lost in the arrangements; his funky sensibilities are sorely missing most of the time (although HH shows he can create plenty of funk on his own about 11 minutes into the song). “Quasar” clearly benefits by the addition of electronics; subtract that element and what you have is a very basic, almost boring, jazz song.

Initially, I was a bit confused by Crossings. The Hancock albums up to this point had been revelatory. Crossings, by comparison, seemed more like a good gimmick; space jazz that, on close inspection, was a little light on substance. Or maybe it’s just that the rest of the sextet seems lost in outer space. (Interestingly, Herbie’s album covers seem to be in a sort of time shift; Crossings looks like Mwandishi sounds, and Sextant looks like Crossings sounds.)

Original LP Version

A1. Sleeping Giant (Herbie Hancock) (24:50)
B1. Quasar (Benny Maupin) (7:47)
B2. Water Torture (Benny Maupin) (14:04)

The Players

Mwandishi Herbie Hancock (electric piano, piano, melotron, percussion), Swahile Eddie Henderson (trumpet, fluegelhorn, percussion), Mwile Benny Maupin (soprano saxophone, alto flute, bass clarinet, piccolo, percussion), Pepo Mtoto Julian Priester (bass, tenor & alto trombones, percussion), Mchezaji Buster Williams (electric bass, bass, percussion), Jbali Billy Hart (drums, percussion) with Scott Beach (voices), Victoria Domagalski (voices), Patrick Gleason (Moog synthesizer), Della Horne (voices), Candy Love (voices), Victor Pontoja (congas), Sandra Stevens (voices). Produced by David Rubinson & Friends, Inc.; recording engineered by Patrick Gleason; remixed by David Rubinson, Fred Catero, Jerry Zatkin.

The Pictures

Cover painting by Robert Springett. Inside photos by Anne Foreman.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in May 1972 in the US (Warner Bros, BS 2617) [green label], the UK (Warner Bros., K 46164) and Japan (Warner, P-8251W) with gatefold cover. Reached #10 on the US Jazz charts.

  1. Re-isued on elpee in the US (Warner Bros., BS 2617) [burbank label] with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2001 in the UK (Warner Bros., 47542-2) and on April 4, 2001 in Germany (Warner/Benelux, 69997).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 2006 in Japan (Bomba, BOM-24070).
  4. Re-released on super high material compact disc on October 26, 2016 in Japan (Warner, WPCR-29115).
  5. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2017 in the US (Speakers Corner, AWAR 2617).

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