Jazz at 100 Hour 78: Sons of Miles – Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Tony Williams (1964 – 1968)

Tony Williams

During the five-year tenure of Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet (1963 – 1968), Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams were very active on their own projects, many of which included Ron Carter. Several of the resulting releases are classics of the period and laid the foundation for their significant careers after the Quintet broke up in 1968. The highly productive moonlighting of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams in this hour of Jazz at 100.

Herbie Hancock.
Herbie Hancock released Inventions and Dimensions in 1963, Empyrean Isles in 1964, Maiden Voyage in 1965 and Speak Like a Child in 1968 – all on Blue Note.
“[Maiden Voyage] is a quiet record, which also may work against it, likened by Joachim Berendt to Debussy’s La Mer. Coleman plays with delicate understatement and Hancock never puts a foot wrong. No great surprise that the chemistry was so good: with the obvious exception of Hubbard, this was Miles’s group. The title-track, ‘The Eye Of The Hurricane’ and ‘Dolphin Dance’ are all securely established in the canon… and Hancock’s playing on them is sure-footed, timbrally inventive and wonderfully logical without yielding to predictable cadences. It belongs in the very first rank of modern jazz records.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Maiden Voyage. Herbie Hancock Quintet
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, George Coleman-ts, Herbie Hancock-p, Ron Carter-b, Tony Williams-d). From Maiden Voyage. 3/17/1965

Dolphin Dance. Herbie Hancock Quintet
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, George Coleman-ts, Herbie Hancock-p, Ron Carter-b, Tony Williams-d). From Maiden Voyage. 3/17/1965

“’The Sorcerer’ [on the LP Speak Like a Child] is one of a number of pieces Hancock composed for the Davis quintet. Only sixteen bars long, The Sorcerer’s melody sounds like an improvised line, and Hancock spins out a series of choruses that seamlessly connect his ideas.” – from the notes for Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano

The Sorcerer. Herbie Hancock Trio
(Herbie Hancock-p, Ron Carter-b, Mickey Roker-d). From Speak Like A Child. 3/9/1968 (Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano)

Tony Williams.
On Blue Note, Tony Williams released Life Time in 1964 at 19 years old and Spring in 1965. “Williams’s early Blue Notes are intense, inward-looking explorations of the rhythmic possibilities opened up by bebop. Much of what he had learned to date was concentrated into Life Time. Compare the crisp attacks and precise, undistorted cymbal sound with what Williams had to put up with in later years and judge how worthy the tribute is on both sides. On ‘Memory’, Williams turns in a remarkable trio performance with [Herbie] Hancock and [Bobby] Hutcherson (and it should be remembered that [Hutcherson’s] most shining moment before this point was on Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch! Session)… The album title was later appropriated for Williams’s crossover band Lifetime, which took him in a new and fruitful direction.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Memory. Tony Williams Trio
(Bobby Hutcherson-vib/mar, Herbie Hancock-p, Tony Williams-d/timp/woodblocks/maracas/triangle). From Life Time. 8/24/1964

Wayne Shorter.
Wayne Shorter’s output during the Second Quintet years included the Blue Note releases Speak No Evil, The Soothsayer, The Collector, All Seeing Eye, Adam’s Apple, and Schizophrenia.

“For us, Speak No Evil is not just Shorter’s most satisfying record, but also one of the best of its period. The understanding with Hancock was total and telepathic, two harmonic adventurers on the loose at a moment when, with John Coltrane still around as a tutelary genius, the rules of jazz improvisation were susceptible to almost endless interrogation. This album created a template for a host of imitators, but so far no one has ever produced a like recording with such strength and internal balance… ‘Infant Eyes’ is compounded of disconcerting nine-measure phrases that suggest a fractured nursery rhyme, and the title-piece [‘Speak No Evil’] pushes the soloists into degrees of harmonic and rhythmic freedom that would not normally have been tolerated in a hard-bop context. Set Speak No Evil alongside Eric Dolphy’s more obviously ‘revolutionary’ Out To Lunch!, recorded by Blue Note earlier the same year, and it’s clear that Shorter claims the same freedoms, giving his rhythm section license to work counter to the line of the melody and freeing the melodic Hancock from merely chordal duties. It’s harder to reconstruct how alien some of Shorter’s procedures were because, by and large, he does remain within the bounds of post-bop harmony, but it’s still clear that this is a classic.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Infant Eyes. Wayne Shorter Quartet
(Wayne Shorter-ts, Herbie Hancock-p, Ron Carter-b, Elvin Jones-d). From Speak No Evil. 12/24/1964

Speak No Evil. Wayne Shorter Quartet
(Wayne Shorter-ts, Herbie Hancock-p, Ron Carter-b, Elvin Jones-d). From Speak No Evil. 12/24/1964

After Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet disbanded in 1968, Wayne Shorter founded Weather Report with Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock formed The Headhunters and Tony Williams established his new band Lifetime with Larry Young and John McLaughlin. Tony Williams died of a heart attack following routine gall bladder surgery in 1997. Shorter and Hancock are still active at the time this program was recorded and still find opportunities to perform and record together.

Hard bop created a comfortable setting for a suite of great blues-influenced guitar players who led the way toward soul jazz. Several of these players were from the mid-west – Wes Montgomery from Indianapolis, Grant Green from St. Louis and Detroit’s Kenny Burrell. The next hour of Jazz at 100 will be the first of three hours presenting music from the 1960s that combined the heavy beat and blues-influenced phrasing of R&B with the harmonic discoveries of bebop to create a style loosely called Soul Jazz. Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell in the next hour of Jazz at 100.

Herbie Hancock. Maiden Voyage. Blue Note BLP 4195
Herbie Hancock. Speak Like a Child. Blue Note BLP 4279
Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 0391.
Tony Williams. Life Time. Blue Note BLP 4180
Wayne Shorter. Speak No Evil. Blue Note BLP 4194

Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Herbie Hancock. Maiden Voyage
Tony Williams. Life Time
Wayne Shorter. Speak No Evil.
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 69. Wayne Shorter. Speak No Evil (1964)
Chapter 71. Herbie Hancock. Maiden Voyage (1965)

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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