For the Masterpiece" column in this weekend's Review section of The Wall Street Journal, I write about Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage"—the strange circumstances that led to its conception and why the album remains special (go here or please pick up a copy of the paper in the U.S.). Here are the first three paragraphs...
In January 1965, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock received a call from a Hollywood jingle agency. Its client, Yardley, needed background music for a TV commercial and wanted a trio playing something jazzy, since the men’s fragrance ad took place in a sophisticated club. But instead of writing straight-ahead jazz, Mr. Hancock arranged a catchy rhythmic line that was closer to rock. In the weeks ahead, Mr. Hancock completed the assignment and then used the rhythmic chords as the bones for Maiden Voyage—the title song of what would become his most iconic and majestic album. The recording combined the freer, modal jazz popular at the time with a fresh romantic lyricism and vulnerability. The result is a timeless, career-defining opus of emotional uncertainty and guarded optimism—an album that would become his equivalent to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.”
In the years since the release of Maiden Voyage, the album’s title song, The Eye of the Hurricane and Dolphin Dance have become jazz standards, and the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Today, 50 years after it was recorded on March 17, 1965, Maiden Voyage remains Blue Note’s third-most-popular legacy album and Mr. Hancock’s No. 2 best-selling recording after Head Hunters, his electro-funk hit from 1973."
Jazz is for me the most important cultural revolution of the 20th century and I'm proud to
play this kind of music. For me, jazz is more than a kind of music, it's the best way of playing
any musical material.