One of the most open-eared and forward-thinking jazz musicians of his day, Hancock has, more than just about anyone else, consistently tried to broaden the music's horizons by mixing it with the most interesting elements of contemporary pop. Hancock has consistently pushed the envelope, from his earliest days with Miles Davis to his jazz-rock fusion of the early '70s and his early embrace of synthesizers and electronic instruments, his early-'80s experiments with hip-hop and sampling, or more recently, his acoustic piano reinterpretations of songs--the new standards, in his parlance--by everyone from Don Henley to Nirvana.
In the mid-''60s, a distinctive postbop style evolved among the younger musicians associated with Blue Note, a new synthesis that managed to blend the cool spaciousness of Miles Davis''s modal period, some of the fire of Art Blakey''s Jazz Messengers, and touches of the avant-garde''s group interaction. Maiden Voyage is a masterpiece of the school, with Hancock''s enduring compositions like "Maiden Voyage" and "Dolphin Dance" mingling creative tension and calm repose with strong melodies and airy, suspended harmonies that give form to his evocative sea imagery. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard was at a creative peak, stretching his extraordinary technique to the limits in search of a Coltrane-like fluency on the heated "Eye of the Storm," while the underrated tenor saxophonist George Coleman adds a developed lyricism to the session. --Stuart Broomer
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